Chemotherapy helps in treating cancer, however, it comes with a price. It causes various side effects in the patient’s body. The intensity of side effects may differ from patient to patient and mainly depends on the type of chemotherapy drugs used for the treatment. This article deals with important tips on how to manage the side effects of chemotherapy.

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How To Manage The Side Effects Of Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy plays a crucial role in treatment of cancer, hence its side effects have to be treated by adopting different measures. It is worth knowing how to manage the side effects of chemotherapy. Here are some of the commonest side effects of chemotherapy and effective ways to manage them.

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Vomiting and Nausea

Nausea and vomiting are the most common side effects caused as a result of chemotherapy. Slight changes in the eating pattern can help in curtailing these side effects. Choosing the right foods and avoiding foods that can cause more trouble is one of the most effective ways to manage the side effects of chemotherapy.

Following are the changes that one should make in the eating pattern to manage the side effects:-

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  • Decrease the Size of Meals but Increase its Frequency - Consuming big meals can aggravate the complaints like nausea and vomiting. Therefore, it is advised to decrease the size of the meals such that whenever you sit to eat, stop at the point when you feel half full. In such a way, since you would never feel full, throughout the day, nausea and vomiting would not occur. At the same time, increase the frequency of the meals, so as to satisfy your hunger but remember to stop eating when you start feeling half full. One of the best ways to manage side effects of chemotherapy is to have smaller meals at frequent intervals.
  • Avoid Drinks During Meals - Try having liquid at least one hour before and after the meal rather than during the meal. Consuming liquids along with the meals disturbs the digestion process and can worsen nausea and vomiting.
  • Avoid Greasy Food - Fried, fatty as well as excessive sweet foods should be avoided as it may make you queasy. Rather try having roughage (salads and fruits) in between meals, if you feel hungry.
  • Stay Away from Pungent Food Items - Strong smelling food items can lead to nausea and therefore it is advised to avoid them.
  • Chew Properly - You should take out enough time while eating. Gulping in food can lead to nausea and vomiting.
  • Anti-Nausea Medications - Since nausea and vomiting are the most troublesome side effects of chemotherapy, therefore, doctors prescribe such medications before the chemotherapy sessions. If you are not taking it, ask your physician to prescribe it for you.
  • Alternative Therapies - Acupuncture and relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing can help in managing nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. Cancer patients have reported positive results by performing acupuncture and relaxation techniques in a disciplined manner during the months of chemotherapy treatment.

Hair Loss

Most of the chemotherapy treatments, lead to hair loss. Following are the tips to manage the side effects of chemotherapy related to hair loss.

  • Prefer Organic Shampoos and Products - Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy should prefer using organic shampoos and products rather than the ones that contain harsh chemicals. Hair dyes should also be a big no-no during chemotherapy.
  • Style Your Hair Properly - Hair fall is a common side effect of chemotherapy. One of the easiest ways to manage hair related side effects of chemotherapy are to style them properly to suit your personality. Protect your hair from other external factors like weather and water. Use soft water as hard water leads to hair fall. You can get your hair cut short so that it may look fuller and thicker. Another way to avoid hair loss affect your looks is by choosing a wig at the right time. Shop for a wig, much before you loose your hair. This way you can have a close replica of your usual hair style. Covering your hair with a clean scarf in cold weather and use of sunscreen on the scalp during summers helps in preventing the hair fall.

Change in Taste

Chemotherapy may affect the sense of taste, however, here are some effective ways to manage side effects of chemotherapy related to change in taste. If you feel you are developing a distaste for your favorite food, it is better to avoid eating it. Rather, let your brain remember the palatable taste, throughout the treatment so that you have atleast something to cherish after you are done with your treatment. Consumption of sweet marinade helps in bringing back the flavor to the main dish. It is best to avoid foods that do not make you feel good. Also, consider taking medicines for change in taste and nausea, with doctor’s advice.

Mental Fog/ Chemo Brain

A lot of patients feel a mental fog like condition for a short duration after the chemotherapy session which is also medically termed as ‘Chemo Brain’. Following are the tips to manage this side effect of chemotherapy.

  • Keep Your Brain Active - An active brain is less likely to suffer from chemo brain. In order to have an active brain, get involved in any learning class, lectures or involve yourself in solving puzzles. The more your brain works, the sharper and active it would become.
  • Avoid Multitasking - Cancer patients should avoid multitasking after the chemotherapy sessions. Keep yourself light on routine and focus on one thing at a time. Avoid taking tensions over creepy issues.
  • Have a Disciplined Schedule - Have a disciplined schedule which includes healthy meal time, sufficient amount of sleep as well as exercise. Such a schedule further helps in sharpening of the brain.
  • Backup - In case, if chemo brain troubles you a lot after the chemotherapy session, start using a daily planner wherein you can document the important ‘to-do’ tasks, dates, names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. which you generally tend to forget in the mental fog state. This shall help in managing the tasks effectively.

Fatigue

A lot of patients experience tiredness and loss of core energy as a side effect after the chemotherapy sessions. Following are some of the ways to manage such side effects of chemotherapy:

  • Exercise - One of the most effective ways to increase your threshold and mange side effects of chemotherapy is by doing exercises, regularly. Even a short walk, daily can help in boosting your energy.
  • Rest - Whenever possible, try taking rest or short naps during the day. This will help in maintaining your body’s energy.
  • Don’t Overstress – Patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment should often seek help for the tasks that are laborious. Your colleagues, family members or friends can help you out in accomplishing such tasks so that you are able to maintain your energy levels and avoiding early stage of fatigue.
  • Prioritize Your Work - Patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment should learn to prioritize their tasks to avoid end minute rush or overburdening of tasks, especially when you are also suffering from anemia along with cancer.

Sensitivity to Sun

The months during which the chemotherapy sessions are performed, the patient becomes quite sensitive to sunlight and therefore it becomes necessary to take appropriate precautions to prevent it. Following are some of the ways to manage this side effect of chemotherapy.

  • Keep Yourself Covered - In order to prevent direct contact of the sun with your skin, try covering your face with a scarf, legs with long pants, hands with a full sleeves shirt and head with a hat.
  • Sunscreen - Sunscreen protects your skin by forming a layer that prevents the sun rays to get in touch with your skin. Get in touch with your dermatologist to check the SPF number that would suit your skin. Apply it at least 30 minutes before going out during the day.

Hence, it is clear that even though chemotherapy has certain side effects, the brighter side of the story is that there are many effective ways to manage the side effects of chemotherapy. The treating doctor, nutritionist and other experts can help plan a proper treatment for side effects and diet schedule along with a healthy routine.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: November 30, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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