Things to consider before breast cancer treatment

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Courtesy Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Fertility options for younger women

Having a child after treatment ends

Some breast cancer treatments can affect fertility. If you wish to have a child after treatment ends, talk to your health care provider (and if possible, a fertility specialist) before treatment begins.

General considerations

Chemotherapy can weaken your immune system, so it is important to consider a few things before starting treatment.

Flu shot

If your treatment will occur during flu season, it is important to get a flu shot before treatment begins. The flu shot now protects against the seasonal flu and H1N1 (swine) flu. To learn more, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Pap test

Women may wish to have a gynecological exam before starting chemotherapy. A positive result on a Pap test (Pap smear) almost always requires a slightly invasive follow-up procedure. Because chemotherapy can weaken the immune system, this procedure should take place before treatment starts. Chemotherapy can also interfere with the results of a Pap test.

Dental visits

You should postpone routine dental visits until chemotherapy is over. Sometimes dental work can cause an infection in your mouth. Infections can be harder to treat when your immune system is weakened by chemotherapy.

If you have dental work or a cleaning that cannot wait until after treatment ends, you should go to the dentist before chemotherapy begins.

Travel

Although the above precautions are important, you should not feel the need to postpone activities such as travel. In general, it is safe to travel by plane, train or bus while undergoing chemotherapy. However, chemotherapy weakens your immune system. If you travel during your chemotherapy, it’s a good idea to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often to avoid infection.