Treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) involves the destruction of cancer cells, but during the process, the normal cells are also damaged. Most of the therapies used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapies can cause side effects.
Most of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatments cause damage to the immune system leaving a person at a higher risk of getting a serious infection.
The common side effects of chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment include:
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Change in taste and smell
- Body aches
- Mouth sores
- Fever and chills
- Reactions at the infusion site
- Low blood count leading to bleeding and bruising
How to Manage The Side Effects of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Treatment?
The side effect and its intensity vary in individuals. The healthcare team can help manage the side effects in the following ways.
Take Steps To Minimize Infections
Damage to the immune system is the main damage caused by chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) treatments. This makes a person easy prey to any kind of infection.
The chances of infection can be minimized by following a few simple steps:
- Wash hands with soap and water frequently.
- Avoid being in crowds of people.
- The use of a rectal thermometer, suppositories, and enemas should be avoided. These can cause injury to the area around the rectum and cause harmful bacteria to enter.
- Eat meat cooked at proper temperature.(1)
- Wash the fruits and vegetable thoroughly before consuming.
- Wear a mask on nose and mouth when out in public.
- Consult the doctor about the vaccination before the treatment.
- All the cuts and scrapes should be washed with warm water and soap right away.
Do Light Exercises
- Exercise can help relieve fatigue, nausea, and constipation. It also improves appetite and mood.
- Light exercises such as yoga, walking, swimming and light aerobics and strength training, can be considered.
- Healthcare team or physical therapists can be consulted about the fitness programs for people with cancer. Also before starting with any exercise regimen, consult a healthcare provider.
Protect Yourself From Getting Injured
During CLL treatments, the platelet count falls. This can lead to easy bleeding and bruising.
Following steps can be taken to protect self from injuries:
- Use an electric shaver instead to razor
- Brush teeth with extra soft bristle toothbrush
- Do not walk bare feet
- Certain medications that can cause bleeding such as aspirin should be avoided
- Do not drink alcohol
- Avoid getting burnt while cooking or ironing
- Avoid sports that involve a high risk of getting injured
Get Enough Sleep
The treatment for CLL is physically exhausting and sleeping well can help come over the stress and anxiety caused due to it.
There are certain tips that can help sleep better:
- The bedroom should be clean, quiet, cool, and dark
- Take a warm bath before bedtime
- Going to bed at the same time, help build a sleep routine
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
- Avoid using any electronic device before bedtime
- Skip sleeping during the day
- Use stress-relieving techniques such as meditation and muscle relaxation exercises before bedtime
There are certain medications that can effectively manage the side effects on the digestive system caused by CLL treatment.
Constipation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are experienced by most of the people as side effects of the treatments. The medications include anti-emetics, anti-diarrhea and laxatives to treat such conditions.
- CLL treatment leads to loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, which in turn causes a deficiency of essential nutrients in the body.
- Meeting a nutritionist and getting the advice of proper diet during the treatment is very important.
- Foods rich in iron such as green leafy vegetables, shellfish, legumes, dark chocolates, quinoa, and red meat should be consumed to maintain the iron level.
- The nutritionist makes sure you get a diet with proper calories, fluid, protein, and nutrients to make up for the loss.
- Also, make sure to drink a lot of water to keep dehydration and fatigue away.
Speak With Your Doctor
- It is very important to speak to the doctor about the signs and symptoms which could signal an emergency.
- Symptoms such as fever, chills, pain or other signs of infection can be a serious indication.
- Keep the doctor’s number handy so that it can be reached easily when in emergency.
It is important to communicate whatever you feel to the healthcare team. They would help you deal with the side effects and help manage them. They can also tailor the therapy if needed to improve the quality of life.