Chemotherapy Tips From Cancer Patients Whove Been There
If youre preparing for chemotherapy for the first time, you may be wondering what to expect.
We asked our to share their best advice for preparing for chemotherapy and the side effects that come with it. Heres what they had to say.
1. Get some rest
Fatigue is the most common side effect experienced by cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy. So, get plenty of rest and avoid pushing yourself too hard, even if you feel good. Be patient with yourself and others since it may take some time to get back to your regular energy levels. And, remember that its OK to ask for help so that you can take it easy.
2. Stay hydrated
Diarrhea, vomiting and other chemotherapy side effects can cause you to become dehydrated. Not only can this cause you to have low energy, but it can also cause other health issues. So, be sure to drink plenty of water during your treatment. Decaffeinated tea, juices and milk can also help. If youre having trouble consuming enough liquids or staying hydrated, talk to your care team.
3. Eat when you can
Chemotherapy can cause nausea and appetite loss, so its important to eat when you can to avoid becoming malnourished. Keep in mind that many foods may taste different as you go through treatment. For some patients, food may have a metallic aftertaste during and after chemotherapy.
4. Create a sense of normalcy in your routine
5. Look to your support and care teams to have your back through treatment
7. Stay ahead of your nausea
How Can I Tell If I Have Cancer Fatigue
- Think of your personal energy stores as a “bank.” Deposits and withdrawals have to be made over the course of the day or the week to ensure a balance between energy conservation, restoration and expenditure.
- Keep a diary for one week to identify the time of day when you are either most fatigued or have the most energy. Note what you think may be contributing factors.
- Be alert to the warning signs of impending cancer fatigue tired eyes, tired legs, whole-body tiredness, stiff shoulders, decreased energy or a lack of energy, inability to concentrate, weakness or malaise, boredom or lack of motivation, sleepiness, increased irritability, nervousness, anxiety or impatience.
Chemo Brain And Stress
Many people experience mental changes after chemotherapy treatment. This is sometimes called chemo brain. You may have problems such as poor memory, trouble finding words, difficulty focusing. This can affect parts of your life, including caring for your family and managing your job.
Some things that help with chemo brain include keeping a calendar, writing everything down, and exercising your brain with puzzles and reading. Try to focus on 1 task at a time instead of more than 1 task. You can also work with an occupational therapist for cognitive behavioral rehabilitation. This is a treatment to help you if you have cognitive issues. Occupational therapists work in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Occupational and Physical Therapy. For more information about cognitive behavioral rehabilitation, talk with your healthcare provider for a referral.
Try to avoid having goals for yourself that are too high. This can add to your stress level and frustration. Most people say it takes 6 to 12 months after they finish chemotherapy before they truly feel like themselves again. Read the resource Managing Cognitive Changes for more information about managing chemo brain.
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Menstrual Changes And Fertility Issues
For younger women, changes in menstrual periods are a common side effect of chemo. Premature menopause and infertility may occur and could be permanent. If this happens, there is an increased risk of heart disease, bone loss, and osteoporosis. There are medicines that can treat or help prevent bone loss.
Even if your periods stop while you are on chemo, you may still be able to get pregnant. Getting pregnant while on chemo could lead to birth defects and interfere with treatment. If you have not gone through menopause before treatment and are sexually active, its important to discuss using birth control with your doctor. It is not a good idea for women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer to take hormonal birth control , so its important to talk with both your oncologist and your gynecologist about what options would be best for you. When women have finished treatment , they can safely go on to have children, but it’s not safe to get pregnant while being treated.
If you think you might want to have children after being treated for breast cancer, talk with your doctor soon after being diagnosed and before you start treatment. For some women, adding medicines, like monthly injections with a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analog, along with chemo, can help them have a successful pregnancy after cancer treatment. To learn more, see Female Fertility and Cancer.
Try Hair Regrowth Treatment
Some drugs encourage hair regrowth after chemotherapy, but the results vary. Most hair regrowth drugs aim to treat hair loss resulting from causes other than chemotherapy.
Some research has suggested that minoxidil might speed up hair regrowth or reduce hair loss during chemotherapy.
Doctors may, for example, recommend Rogaine for people who have had tamoxifen therapy for breast cancer. However, it can be messy and expensive. Pharmacies usually offer other forms of minoxidil that are cheaper.
A person should discuss the risks and benefits of hair regrowth treatments with their doctor before using them.
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How Can Parents Help
Cancer treatment has come a long way. But it can be hard for kids and teens to cope with the sometimes painful or uncomfortable side effects. Fortunately, doctors have many ways to make treatments easier to manage.
Your child also might feel the emotional effects of having a serious illness. Answer questions and help explain what’s going on in an age-appropriate way. Turn to the care team when needed. A hospital support group, child life specialist, social worker, or psychologist from the team can help your child and your whole family before, during, and after cancer treatment.
You also can find information and support online at:
How Long Does It Take For Radiation Side Effects To Go Away
The general effects of radiation therapy like fatigue, nausea, and headaches resolve fairly quickly after treatment. Your body just needs time to process the radiation but can recover within a few weeks.
Delayed side effects of radiation therapy, on the other hand, may require further treatment to alleviate. Its important to use an ongoing therapy like hyperbaric oxygen therapy to enhance the bodys healing response and optimize the bodys response to radiation damage. Without additional care, some radiation side effects like burns and inflammation can morph into chronic, non-healing wounds that trigger additional health complications.
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How Can Exercise Help Reduce Cancer Fatigue
You may feel ill from your cancer or treatment, which may lead to less physical activity. Decreased levels of physical activity can lead to tiredness and lack of energy. Scientists have found that even healthy athletes forced to spend extended periods in bed or sitting in chairs develop feelings of anxiety, depression, weakness, fatigue and nausea. Regular, moderate exercise can decrease the feeling of fatigue and help you feel energetic. Even during cancer therapy, it’s often possible to continue to exercise. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.
Exercise has many health benefits. Regular exercise can:
- Increase your appetite.
Keeping Well After Treatment
Its important to take guidance from your medical team. However, the general advice is to follow a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating well, doing exercise thats suitable for you, keeping a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol intake and not smoking. You can find more information about these and other healthy lifestyle factors on the NHS website.
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Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs that may be given intravenously or by mouth. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in most parts of the body. Sometimes, if cancer spreads to the spinal fluid, which surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord, chemo may be given directly into in this area .
On this page
How Can I Prevent Cancer Fatigue
You cant do much to prevent cancer-related fatigue. But these strategies may help minimize the problem:
- Adopt healthy sleep habits: To build better sleep habits, keep phones and TVs out of the bedroom, go to bed at the same time every night and sleep in a dark, quiet room.
- Ask for help: Let family and friends run errands, fix meals or help with housework or child care.
- Cut back on caffeine:Caffeine provides a temporary pick-me-up. But it can also keep you up at night.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Its important to stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods.
- Set priorities: Be realistic about what you can do. Save your energy for the things that matter most.
- Stay physically active: Go for a walk or try yoga or tai chi. Dont exercise too late in the evening. The activity may make it harder to fall asleep.
- Take 30-minute rest breaks: During the day, dont sleep longer than 30 minutes or you could have trouble falling asleep at night. Rest breaks can help if you have an upcoming event that requires a lot of energy.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A chronic illness like cancer can bring many unwanted challenges. Cancer fatigue is one of them. It makes sense that fighting off cancer can tire out your body. Cancer treatments can also be physically and mentally exhausting. Still, you shouldnt hesitate to let your healthcare provider know how cancer fatigue is affecting your life. You can take steps to bring more energy back into your days.
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Engage In A Calming Activity
Its possible that you may experience many different feelings during chemotherapy, such as anxiety, sadness, or anger. Doing a calming activity may help you to cope with these feelings when they occur. Some examples include:
- taking part in a hobby that you enjoy
- visiting with family and friends
- trying out meditation or breathing exercises
What Is The Fastest Way To Recover From Chemotherapy
With your doctors approval, start slowly and work your way up. The American Cancer Society recommends adult cancer survivors exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, including strength training at least two days a week. As you recover and adjust, you might find that more exercise makes you feel even better.
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Chemotherapy Resources And Support
Receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing chemotherapy can definitely take a physical, emotional, and mental toll. However, there are many resources available to help you get the support you need.
For example, it may be helpful to speak with and learn from others who are on a similar journey as you. You can do this through joining an in-person or online support group.
If youre not quite ready to engage with a support group, one-on-one counseling may be a good option. Try to find a mental health professional who specializes in counseling people with cancer.
Some support resources to get started with include:
- Medical care team. If you have a medical care team, ask them for recommendations on support services. There may even be support groups or counselors that are associated with your treatment center.
- American Cancer Society. The
Strategies To Cope With Pain And Skin Changes
Luckily, there is plenty you as a survivor can do to improve your conditions in your life after chemo. The important thing to remember is that YOU are in control.
When it comes to skin changes and associated pain, we at CamWell have made it our mission to provide safe, oncologist-formulated solutions to help patients and survivors alike cope with their symptoms.
CamWell Hand to Heal Cream is the perfect solution for skin conditions such as Hand Foot syndrome you may be coping with users have even said that its helped calm their symptoms of peripheral neuropathy! Every bottle of Hand to Heal Cream is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and contains no harsh chemicals. Each ingredient is carefully sourced and selected, and only a thin layer is required for maximum results.
Benefits of CamWell Hand to Heal Cream include:
- Soothes chemo-induced neuropathy
- Hydrates severely dry, cracked skin
- Calms inflammation
- Protects skin against infection
- Heals skin damage linked to numbness and tingling
In addition to utilizing a CamWell product, here are some other helpful strategies and precautions you can take when it comes to managing your pain:
Fatigue is something youve battled throughout your cancer treatment, and its lingering effects can be felt after youve completed chemo as well. Fatigue is a common complaint as such, there is much that can be done to help cope with it and mitigate its effects.
If youre struggling with fatigue, you may be dealing with symptoms such as:
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Other Chemos Other Cancers
Researchers found that the type of chemo used did seem to make a difference in the recovery of patientsâ immune systems.
For instance, lymphocyte levels in patients treated with certain anthracycline-based regimens followed by the taxane docetaxel âremained significantly depressed,â measuring at 64 percent of pre-chemo levels.
Dr. Julie Gralow â a breast cancer oncologist at SCCA, Fred Hutch’s treatment arm â said she thought patients would be very interested in the study, but she felt the âclinical implications of the finding remain to be seen,â noting that the study looked at chemo agents that may not be commonly used in the U.S.
At the SCCA, for example, âWe donât use epirubicin as the anthracycline, we use doxorubicin,â she said. âAnd when we give anthracyclines, we generally favor taxol over taxotere as the taxane. So we donât give the same chemo.â
She also suggested that while the study showed the immune system was impacted by chemo, the study didnât prove that patients were more at risk for infection.
âMost of the effect has recovered within nine months, if you donât smoke,â she said. â it seems that smoking has a big effect, and we always encourage patients to stop smoking.â
While the researchers did not investigate this effect in other cancers, they said patients treated with the same chemotherapy agents would most likely experience the same thing.
Increased Risk Of Leukemia
Very rarely, certain chemo drugs, such as doxorubicin , can cause diseases of the bone marrow, such as myelodysplastic syndromes or even acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of white blood cells. If this happens, it is usually within 10 years after treatment. For most women, the benefits of chemo in helping prevent breast cancer from coming back or in extending life are far likely to exceed the risk of this rare but serious complication.
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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.
How Is Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer Given
Chemo drugs for breast cancer are typically given into a vein , either as an injection over a few minutes or as an infusion over a longer period of time. This can be done in a doctors office, infusion center, or in a hospital setting.
Often, a slightly larger and sturdier IV is required in the vein system to administer chemo. These are known as central venous catheters , central venous access devices , or central lines. They are used to put medicines, blood products, nutrients, or fluids right into your blood. They can also be used to take out blood for testing.
There are many different kinds of CVCs. The most common types are the port and the PICC line. For breast cancer patients, the central line is typically placed on the side opposite of the breast cancer. If a woman has breast cancer in both breasts, the central line will most likely be placed on the side that had fewer lymph nodes removed or involved with cancer.
Chemo is given in cycles, followed by a rest period to give you time to recover from the effects of the drugs. Chemo cycles are most often 2 or 3 weeks long. The schedule varies depending on the drugs used. For example, with some drugs, chemo is given only on the first day of the cycle. With others, it is given one day a week for a few weeks or every other week. Then, at the end of the cycle, the chemo schedule repeats to start the next cycle.
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Feeling And Being Sick
Many people having chemotherapy will have periods where they feel sick or are sick .
Your care team can give you anti-sickness medicine to reduce or prevent this.
This is available as:
Tell your care team if your medicine does not help, or it causes too many side effects. There may be a different one that works better for you.