Many people go through chemotherapy with little to no discomforting side effects. However, your doctor will work with you to eliminate or manage any symptoms you may experience due to your cancer or from side-effects of the chemotherapy treatment. Some symptoms will require medications which your doctor will prescribe, but there will be many simple things you can do for yourself such as drinking adequate water, resting if you feel tired, eating healthy foods – and trying to eat even when you don’t have an appetite. If you are feeling well enough, light exercise is also beneficial. Those actions will help your body to process and eliminate the toxic effects of the chemotherapy so that side-effects may be lessened. Some of the side-effects you may need help with are as follows:
- Nauseousness – Your doctor will prescribe medications for you to take, and give you instructions on when to take them. Our registered dietitian can help you to choose foods that will be gentle on your stomach and provide the nutrition you need. Some people find relief with using things such as ginger, acupuncture, or seasick bands.
- Constipation/Diarrhea – The doctor can prescribe medication to control this and the dietician can help you choose foods that will help to regain normal digestive function.
- Bone Marrow Suppression – Chemotherapy can temporarily suppress your bone marrow from producing a normal amount of blood cells. Your blood cell counts will be monitored regularly because of this. In time your normal cell production usually resumes. If your counts decline too low you may receive medication to stimulate bone marrow production, you may require a transfusion , and treatment may be postponed until your counts recover.
- If your white blood cell is low, your ability to fight infection is compromised. We ask that you take care to avoid crowds and sick people (especially children), wash your hands often, and avoid eating raw foods – fruits and vegetables are best eaten washed and peeled , or cooked. If you develop a fever higher than 100.5 degrees, a sore throat or cough, or pain and redness at any surgical or catheter site, please call for an immediate appointment.
- If your red blood cell count is low you may feel tired and weak. It is best to avoid any strenuous activity until the count goes up. If you are experiencing light-headedness or shortness of breath during normal activities, call for an appointment. If you are passing out or have extreme shortness of breath, call 911.
- If your platelet count is low, you may have increased bruising or red/purple pinpoint dots on your skin. Report these symptoms to your doctor. If you have a cut or nosebleed that will not stop bleeding, go to your nearest emergency center.
- Other side effects that are possible with chemotherapy are: difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, neuropathy (numbness or tingling) in your hands or feet, and rashes. If you have any of these or other symptoms be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
The chemotherapy nurses are a great source of tips and practical measures that you can use to help with side-effects.