Practical Hints For Fatigue
- Plan your activities, such as grocery shopping, for a time when you feel the best.
- If you have children, rest when they are napping. When you feel most tired, consider hiring a babysitter for a few hours so that you can relax or take a nap.
- Take naps early in the day so you do not disturb your sleep pattern at night.
- Consider exercising every day or several times a week. Good forms of exercise include swimming, walking and yoga. Contact the Patient and Family Cancer Support Center for information on free exercise classes.
When To Get Urgent Medical Advice
While the side effects of chemotherapy can be distressing, most are not serious.
Infections can be very serious if not treated immediately. Contact your care team immediately if you have any symptoms of an infection, these include:
- a temperature of above 37.5C or below 36C
- your skin feels warm to touch, or you feel hot and shivery
- breathing difficulties
- flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and pain
Although She Expected To Feel Sick After Her Chemotherapy The Anti
For many the medication meant they felt nausea without being sick, but others vomited. One man said that the hospital environment and the smell of the sterile wipes worsened his nausea and he recovered better at home. A woman said she vomited because she miscalculated when to take her first anti-sickness pill. A woman who had tried acupuncture believed it reduced the amount of anti-emetic she needed.
Recommended Reading: What Helps Nausea From Chemo
About Chemotherapy Side Effects
Any side effects you get will depend on the chemotherapy drugs you are having. Different drugs may cause different side effects. You may get some of the side effects mentioned, but you are very unlikely to get all of them.
Some side effects are mild and easily treated. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist may prescribe drugs to help control them. It is very important to take the drugs exactly as they tell you. This makes them more likely to work for you.
Other side effects can be harder to manage. These can often be reduced or helped in some way. Your nurse will give you advice about this.
Most side effects stop or slowly go away when chemotherapy finishes. Some side effects can be unpleasant, but the benefits of chemotherapy usually outweigh this.
If you are having a single drug, you may not have as many side effects as someone having a combination of drugs. If you are having high doses of chemotherapy, you may have more side effects.
Steroids are drugs that are often given with chemotherapy treatment. They are usually only given for short periods of time. These also cause side effects. We have more information about steroids.
Related Stories & Media
Effects On Your Concentration
Some people find treatment affects their ability to concentrate and makes them more forgetful.
This is sometimes called chemo brain or chemo fog, but your treatment team may call it cognitive impairment. It usually improves over time after treatment has finished, but for some people it can continue for longer.
Recommended Reading: Stereotactic Radiation Therapy For Dogs
What Are The Side Effects Of Mouth Sores During Chemotherapy
Eating a healthy diet and keeping your mouth and teeth clean can lower your risk of mouth sores. Mouth sores usually go away completely when treatment ends. Learn more about managing mucositis and oral health during cancer treatment. Diarrhea. Some chemotherapy causes loose or watery bowel movements.
How Vitamins Affect Chemotherapy Drugs
Many people want to take an active role in improving their overall health. They want to help their bodys natural defenses fight the cancer and speed up their recovery from chemo. Most people think of vitamins as a safe way to improve health, so its not surprising that many people with cancer take high doses of one or more vitamins. But some vitamins might make chemo less effective.
More research is needed, but until more is known about the effects of vitamins on chemo, keep these points in mind:
- If your doctor has not told you to take vitamins, its best not to take any.
- Always check with your doctor first before starting to take a vitamin of any kind, even a simple multivitamin.
- Ask your doctors if and when it might be OK to start taking vitamins after treatment.
- If youre concerned about nutrition, you can usually get plenty of vitamins by eating a well-balanced diet. See Nutrition for People With Cancer to learn more about nutrition during and after cancer treatment.
You May Like: What Is Papillary Thyroid Cancer
Problems With Different Organs
Some chemotherapy drugs can cause long term problems with specific body organs.
There are drugs that can cause heart damage or lung damage. But cancer doctors are aware of this. You will have tests before and during your treatment so your doctor can keep an eye on your reaction to the drug.
There may be some chemotherapy drugs your doctor won’t use if you have a heart condition. Your doctors will also check you for these effects for some years after your treatment.
Why Does Chemo Cause Side Effects
Cancer cells tend to grow fast, and chemo drugs kill fast-growing cells. But because these drugs travel throughout the body, they can affect normal, healthy cells that are fast-growing, too. Damage to healthy cells causes side effects. Side effects are not always as bad as you might expect, but it’s normal to worry about this part of cancer treatment.
The normal cells most likely to be damaged by chemo are:
- Blood-forming cells in the bone marrow
- Cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system
Some chemo drugs can damage cells in the heart, kidneys, bladder, lungs, and nervous system. Sometimes, you can take medicines with the chemo to help protect your bodys normal cells. There are also treatments to help relieve side effects.
Doctors try to give chemo at levels high enough to treat cancer, while keeping side effects at a minimum. They also try to avoid using multiple drugs that have similar side effects.
Unwanted Effects Of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy damages healthy cells in the body that are dividing quickly. This is the main cause of the unwanted or side effects of treatment. Side effects vary depending on the drugs used and everyone reacts differently. For most people the side effects were worst in the first few days after treatment, then they gradually felt better until the next treatment. Some said the effects were worse with each successive treatment. Most side effects don’t persist and disappear within a few weeks after the end of treatment.It is well known that chemotherapy can make you feel sick. This problem is now better understood than it was – nausea can be well controlled with medication. Some people expected to suffer nausea and vomiting but found that the anti-emetic medication worked well.
Fear Of Cancer Coming Back
After treatment, many people might be afraid that their cancer will come back . You may become concerned about new symptoms youre having and wonder if theyre related to breast cancer.
Its important to talk with your healthcare provider about any new symptoms you notice. Many of these issues are normal parts of healing and your body returning to a new normal after breast cancer treatment. Your healthcare team is always available to discuss your concerns or fears with you.
You can call or send messages to your doctor or nurse through MyMSK . It may also be helpful to talk with a social worker, therapist, or chaplain. You can also join a support group. For more information, read MSK Support Services.
You May Like: Skin Cancer In The Scalp
Memory And Concentration Problems
Some people have problems with their short-term memory, concentration and attention span during chemotherapy. You may find that routines tasks take much longer than usual.
It’s unclear why this happens, but the symptoms usually improve once treatment is finished.
Things such as using lists, post-it notes, calendars and your mobile phone for reminders can help. Doing some mental exercises, eating well, and getting enough rest may also be useful.
Dont Plan Your Chemo Response Until Youve Gone Through Your First Infusion
My reaction to a cancer diagnosis was to dive into what my husband calls âbiblio-therapy.â As a journalist, I researched it to death. As I drove to my first infusion, I felt armed with information to vanquish chemo. Iâd planned out everything.
I was sure Iâd get sick immediately. Instead, I went home from chemo and had dinner with friends. The second day, I felt tired. The third day, I felt completely sick and immobilized. That lasted for 3 or 4 days. Then, gradually, I got better. When I felt almost normal again, it was time for the next infusion.
I expected to throw up all the time but hardly did. I didnât expect chemo brain, but my thinking got so fuzzy, I could barely read a book. I imagined that I would end up in the hospital at some point during treatment, but I didnât.
Everyoneâs pattern is a little different. Wait to see what yours is before you make a lot of plans.
Read Also: Hpv Head And Neck Cancer Symptoms
Lost All Her Body Hair Except The Eyebrows She Cut Short The Hair On Her Head Before It Came Out
Chemotherapy drugs damage the lining of the mouth causing ulcers, thrush and altered taste or smell. Mouth washes were often supplied to prevent mouth sores. A woman with an ulcerated throat was given morphine to reduce the pain but had hallucinations and stopped using it. A man had such bad ulcers in his mouth that it was bleeding and he couldn’t talk or eat. Many people complained that food tasted bland or horrible, metallic, or like poison. Some said they ‘went off’ the smells of perfumes or certain foods such as chicken, fish, cheese, or coffee. Some were put off eating completely and had to be fed through a tube. One woman could smell something that nobody else could but it disappeared after her treatment finished.
Questions To Ask The Health Care Team
Consider asking your health care team these questions:
What physical side effects are likely based on my specific chemotherapy plan? When will they likely begin?
How can these side effects be prevented or managed?
Who should I tell when a side effect appears or gets worse? How can I contact them during regular office hours and after hours?
Are there specific side effects I should tell the doctor about right away?
Would it be helpful for me to track my side effects? What are ways I can do that?
Who can I talk with if I’m feeling anxious or upset about having chemotherapy?
If I’m having side effects that affect my nutrition, can you recommend an oncology dietitian?
What are other ways I can take care of myself during the treatment period?
Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?
Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have a child? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist before cancer treatment begins?
What are the potential long-term effects of this type of chemotherapy?
If I’m worried about managing the financial costs of cancer care, who can help me?
After chemotherapy is completed, what will my follow-up care plan be?
Read Also: Radiation Burn Cream Over Counter
Practical Hints For Menopausal Symptoms
- If you have breast cancer, we DON’T recommend hormone replacement therapy.
- Eat soy products or take vitamin E to reduce hot flashes.
- Your doctor may recommend prescription medications for hot flashes.
- Wear light cotton pajamas to help prevent overheating when sleeping.
- Use vaginal moisturizers on a regular basis or other water-based lubricants as needed, especially during and before sexual activity. These products will help with vaginal dryness and irritation.
Numb Or Tingling Hands Or Feet
Sometimes the feeling in your hands or feet can be affected by chemotherapy. This usually gradually gets better after treatment ends. This may take several months or more.
Sometimes nerves do not fully recover and you may continue to have difficulty with fiddly tasks. This could be things like picking up very small objects or doing up buttons.
People generally find these kinds of changes become less noticeable over time as they adapt and find ways of coping with them. We have more information about peripheral neuropathy.
Recommended Reading: Where Is The Pain With Pancreatic Cancer
Side Effects Of Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Like any treatment, chemotherapy can cause side effects. Everyone reacts differently to drugs and some people have more side effects than others. These side effects can usually be managed and those described here will not affect everyone.
Your treatment team will give you information about the drugs you are having, details of any side effects they may cause and how these can be controlled or managed.
Before starting chemotherapy you should be given a 24-hour contact number or told who to contact if you feel unwell at any time during your treatment, including at night or at the weekends.
Between each cycle of chemotherapy, youll have an assessment to see how youre feeling and whether youve had any side effects.
If you are concerned about any side effects, regardless of whether they are listed here, talk to your treatment team as soon as possible.
Increased Risk Of Infection
Chemotherapy can reduce the number of white blood cells called neutrophils, which help fight infection. If you have a low number of these cells its known as neutropenia.
You can help to protect yourself from infection by washing your hands with soap regularly and avoiding contact with people who have an infection such as a cold or flu.
You should be given information about infections by your chemotherapy team. If you think you might have an infection, you should contact your medical team as soon as possible.
Recommended Reading: Stage 4 Lung Cancer Survivor Stories
How Long Do Chemo Side Effects Last After Each Treatment
How long do side effects last? Many side effects go away fairly quickly, but some might take months or even years to go away completely. These are called late effects. Sometimes the side effects can last a lifetime, such as when chemo causes long-term damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or reproductive organs.
About Side Effects Of Chemotherapy
There are more than 100 different chemotherapy drugs. This page tells you about the side effects that they may cause. But different drugs cause different side effects. Your doctor or nurse will tell you about specific side effects of your own treatment.
Its important to remember that you probably won’t get every side effect listed. For some people the effects are mild. Sometimes the side effects of chemo can be unpleasant, but it can help to remember that:
- most side effects are short term
- theyll begin to go once the treatment has finished
- you can have medicines to reduce most side effects
Let your nurse or doctor know if you have side effects that are troubling you.
You May Like: Side Effects Of Brain Radiation
How Long Do Side Effects From Chemotherapy Last
Patients may find that some side effects come and go surprisingly quickly. But it may take months to completely get over other side effects. Some side effects subside between treatments and some, especially serious ones, may be lifelong.
Dont get discouraged. Patients and their cancer treatment teams work together to prevent and reduce side effects of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy Drug Interactions And Side Effects
When looking at how best to combine chemo drugs, doctors must look at interactions between chemo drugs and other medicines the person is taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements. These interactions may make side effects worse and affect how well chemo drugs work.
Its important that you tell your doctor about all medicines, including over-the counter medicines, vitamins, herbal or dietary supplements you are taking even if you only take them as needed.
For instance, platelets help blood clot and prevent bleeding. Many chemo drugs lower the number of platelets for a time. Taking aspirin or other related drugs can also weaken blood platelets. This isnt a problem for healthy people with normal platelet counts, but if a person has low platelet counts from chemo, this combination might put them at risk of a serious bleeding problem.
Your doctor can talk with you about the safety of using other medicines, vitamins, and supplements while you are being treated for cancer.
Read Also: Chem Dry On The Shore
Late Side Effects Of Chemotherapy
Most chemotherapy side effects are temporary and disappear once your treatment is over. For some people chemotherapy can cause long term changes in the body months or years after treatment.
Many people feel more tired than usual for a long time after chemotherapy treatment. This is most likely to happen after a lot of treatment, or very intensive treatment. For example, after high dose chemotherapy or if you are having a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
After intensive treatment, you are likely to have a lower resistance to infection for quite a long time. This will gradually get back to normal, but can take some months.
In some cases chemotherapy can cause infertility.
Are Some Chemotherapy Side Effects Permanent
Most side effects go away after chemotherapy is complete. But some continue or come back, or develop later. For example, some types of chemotherapy may cause permanent damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, or reproductive system. And some people have trouble with thinking, concentrating, and memory for months or years after treatment. Cancer survivors also have a higher risk of second cancers later in life.
Children who had chemotherapy are at risk of specific side effects that happen months or years after treatment. Learn more about late effects in childhood cancer survivors.
Don’t Miss: Chemo Cream Before And After