A bruise is a mark on your skin caused by blood trapped under the surface. Bruises happen when an injury crushes small blood vessels under the skin. The blood vessels break open and leak blood under the skin. Platelets and clotting factors help you resist bruising, too.
Certain medicines used to treat breast cancer can reduce the number of platelets in your body or make clotting factors not work properly. When this happens, you are at greater risk for excessive bleeding and bruising.
Breast cancer treatments that may cause bleeding are:
- Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib), a targeted therapy
- Fareston (chemical name: toremifene), a hormonal therapy
Several pain medicines, including aspirin, can increase your risk for bleeding and bruising.
Managing bleeding/bruising problems
If you notice that you’re more prone to bleeding or bruising during breast cancer treatment, talk to your doctor right away. There are medications available to help the problem. Your doctor may advise you to avoid aspirin or certain vitamins and supplements until your risk of bleeding and bruising is lower.
If you’re considering chiropractic therapy, acupuncture, Shiatsu,yoga, or another type of complementary medicine technique that involves manipulation or pressure on your body, talk to both your breast cancer doctor and your complementary medicine practitioner before you begin. You might have to wait until your risk of bleeding and bruising is lower before you add complementary medicine to your treatment plan.
Blood Clots and Phlebitis
Blood clots are the clumps that form when blood hardens from liquid to solid. A blood clot that forms in a blood vessel or in the heart and stays put is called a thrombus. A blood clot that moves to another part of the body is called an embolus and the situation is called an embolism. Blood clots can attach to blood vessels and partially or completely block the flow of blood. When a vein swells because of a blood clot, it’s called phlebitis. This blockage stops the usual amount of blood and oxygen from reaching the tissues in that location, which can damage the tissue. Blood clots also can increase your risk of having a stroke. A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to the brain.
Symptoms of blood clots include:
- warmth and tenderness over the vein
- pain or swelling
- skin redness
Certain breast cancer treatments can increase your risk for blood clots. They are:
- Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab), a targeted therapy
- tamoxifen, Evista (chemical name: raloxifene), and Fareston (chemical name: toremifene), hormonal therapies
- surgery to remove lymph nodes
Managing blood clots
If you think you have a blood clot, talk to your doctor right away, especially if you’re taking a medication that increases your risk of blood clots. There are medicines you can take to break up the clots and ease any pain and swelling you might have.
To ease pain and reduce your risk of blood clots, you can also:
- Wear support/compression stockings. These help reduce swelling and can help minimize any complications if you do develop a blood clot.
- Apply moist heat (a warm washcloth or towel) to the painful area several times a day.
- Elevate your leg (if the clot is in your leg).
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of blood clots.
- Move around when traveling. Sitting during a long plane flight or car ride can increase your risk of blood clots. Walk around the airplane cabin once an hour or so. If you’re driving, stop every hour and walk around the car a few times. Wear loose clothing and drink plenty of water so you stay hydrated.
- Move your legs regularly if you have to stay seated for a long time. Flex and rotate your ankles and lift your knees up and down at least 10 times each hour.