Mouth And Throat Changes
Why it happens: Since chemo affects fast-growing cells, like the cells that line your entire GI tract , you may experience changes in these parts of your body.
Problems may include:
- Changes in taste and smell
- Infections in your gums, teeth or tongue
- Increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods
How to handle:
- Visit a dentist at least two weeks before starting chemo
- Check your mouth and tongue every day, especially if you wear dentures or a partial plate
- Keep your mouth moist by sipping water all day
- Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime
- Do not use mouthwash that contains alcohol
- Take small bites of food
- Soften food with gravy, broth or other liquids
- Suck on popsicles or ice chips.
You cancer doctor or nurse may refer you to a dietitian who can provide further education.
The Effects Of Chemo Are Cumulative They Get Worse With Each Cycle
My doctors warned me: Each infusion will get harder. Each cycle, expect to feel weaker.
I heard them say it, but I guess I didnât quite believe it.
I live in coastal California, where exercise is not so much a hobby as a way of life. So I was determined to keep moving my body as I went through treatment. I was in the habit of taking a daily hike up a small mountain across from my daughterâs school. For the first three cycles, I could make it to the top. But by the last cycle, it took me an hour just to get one-third of the way to the top.
And little did I realize that the exhaustion didnât end with the last infusion — the month after chemo was the hardest of all. I felt like Iâd been run over by a truck. This is normal. Plan for it.
You may learn different lessons as you go through chemo — after all, your journey will be uniquely yours. But hopefully the lessons I learned will be of some help, if only just to remind you that you canât have all the answers at the beginning of the journey. Youâll learn as you go, and someday youâll have lessons of your own to share.
If The Cancer Comes Back
If cancer does return, your treatment options will depend on where it comes back, what treatments youve had before, and your current health and preferences. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see Treatment of Recurrent Breast Cancer.
Its important to know that women who have had breast cancer can also still get other types of cancer. In fact, women who have had breast cancer are at higher risk for certain other cancers. Because of this, its important to follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer, such as those for colorectal cancer and cervical cancer. To learn more about the risks of second cancers and what you can do about them, see Second Cancers After Breast Cancer.
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Was Terrified By An Allergic Reaction To Her First Dose Of Bleomycin So An Antihistamine Was
Chemotherapy damages the bone marrow causing a shortage of blood cells in the body. Shortage of white blood cells called neutrophils increases the risk of infection, and shortage of red blood cells causes tiredness and headaches. Some people had a treatment postponed to allow the blood cell counts to recover or were given medication or transfusions to boost them, others caught infections . Certain chemotherapy drugs can also damage fertility .
Last reviewed February 2016.
Things To Know Before Your First Chemo Treatment
It’s only natural that you would have questions and maybe even worries prior to your first chemotherapy treatment. Your care team will discuss your chemotherapy plan in advance, which can help ease your anxiety. Still, there’s a lot to learn and absorb.
Here are eight things to know so you feel more confident and prepared going into your first chemo session.
Simon Jarratt / Corbis/VCG / Getty Images
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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.
Dont Cling To Any One Test Result Or Prognosis
Cancer cases tend to change. Doctors may give you a prognosis and treatment plan after the first image or biopsy, but then change the prognosis or treatment after gaining more information about your cancer from further testing. After diagnosis, I kept telling myself that my cancer was stage I, no chemo needed, so no big deal. I was angry, then, when further tests revealed that the genetics of my cancer made it more serious, and that chemo would need to be added to the treatment plan. Looking back, what I saw at the time as âbait and switchâ was simply medical professionals responding to new information. Thatâs just the way medicine progresses sometimes. Expect it.
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What Are The Side Effects
Chemotherapy is sometimes referred to as a systemic treatment, because it affects all parts of your body. Unfortunately, it can attack fast-growing healthy cells, such as hair follicles, as well as cancer cells. This causes unwanted side effects such as fatigue, nausea and hair loss. Your medical oncologist or oncology nurse can give you information on ways to manage these side effects.
If side effects are affecting your daily life, its important to discuss them with a member of your medical team. In some instances, your oncologist may be able to change your chemotherapy drug to one that has fewer side effects.
Chemotherapy drugs all work differently and have different side effects. Not all women will suffer side effects from chemotherapy. If you dont experience side effects, it does not mean that the drugs arent working.
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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Practical Hints Regarding Neuropathy
- Tight shoes and socks can worsen pain and tingling, and may lead to sores that won’t heal. Wear soft, loose cotton socks and padded shoes.
- If you have burning pain, cool your feet or hands in cold, but not icy, water for 15 minutes twice a day.
- Massage your hands and feet, or have someone massage them for you, to improve circulation, stimulate nerves and temporarily relieve pain.
Possible Late Effects Of Chemotherapy
Sometimes side effects do not go away, or they can develop months or years after treatment. These are called late effects.
Late effects may be minor and not affect your daily life much. Or, they may be more difficult to live with. There are usually things that can help you cope with them. Some late effects improve over time and may eventually go away on their own.
Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse can explain any possible late effects of your chemotherapy treatment. Different drugs cause different late effects. Some drugs may cause an early menopause and infertility. We have more information about how cancer treatment can affect fertility in men and fertility in women.
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Practical Hints For Constipation
- To help prevent constipation, drink eight to 10 glasses of fluid a day.
- Take a stool softener such as ducosate sodium, also known as Colace, one tablet once or twice a day. Senekot or Senekot-S also may be suggested. Ask your doctor or nurse for a recommendation.
- Stay as active as you can. Consistent regular exercise can reduce constipation.
- If you can tolerate them, try high-fiber foods such as prunes, bran, fruits and vegetables.
What Happens During Chemotherapy Treatment
There are different ways you can receive chemotherapy. The most common way that chemotherapy drugs are given is through a needle into a vein. This is called intravenous or IV chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can also be taken as a pill, capsule, or liquid by mouth, as an injection or shot, or as a cream that is put directly on your skin. Learn more about the different kinds of chemotherapy.
During your first IV chemotherapy appointment, you should bring a friend or family member. They can support you and help you remember information. Sometimes you will be given medication before your chemotherapy treatment that can make you tired, so you may need someone who can drive you home.
You may also bring items that make your treatment time easier. For instance, considering bringing your phone, a tablet, books, or a blanket.
Before your treatment starts, you will:
Have a blood sample taken
Meet with your oncologist so they can check your health and blood test results
Meet the nurse or other health professionals who will give your treatment
Have your blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and temperature taken before starting treatment
Have your height and weight measured to find the right dose of chemotherapy
May have an IV tube, also called a catheter, put in your arm
To get the full benefit of chemotherapy, it is important to follow the schedule of treatments recommended by your doctor and manage other medications you’re taking.
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How Often Does Stage 1 Breast Cancer Come Back After Treatment
If stage 1 cancer is treated comprehensively, it rarely comes back. A new, unrelated breast cancer is more likely to emerge after stage 1 breast cancer is treated than a recurrence. Your healthcare provider will recommend a surveillance schedule for you so that new breast cancer or a recurrence can be identified and treated as quickly as possible.
What When And Why
Every chemotherapy infusion includes a mix of drugs. Some are cancer-killing drugs, while others are medications that help ease side effects.
If you’re not already clear about the answers to the following questions about all of the drugs you will receive, ask your healthcare provider:
- What is this medication?
- How does it help kill cancer cells?
- What side effects may it have?
- How will I feel after taking the medication?
- How should I cope with it?
- Who do I call if I have problems?
While some infusions take minutes, others take hours. A course may take days or weeks. Ask how you should plan for the treatments that await you.
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How Will I Know If My Chemotherapy Is Working
You will see your doctor often. During these visits, she will ask you how you feel, do a physical exam, and order medical tests and scans. Tests might include blood tests. Scans might include MRI, CT or PET scans.
You cannot tell if chemotherapy is working based on its side effects. Some people think that severe side effects mean that chemotherapy is working well, or that no side effects mean that chemotherapy is not working. The truth is that side effects have nothing to do with how well chemotherapy is fighting your cancer.
Skin And Nail Changes
Some drugs can affect your skin. It may become dry or slightly discoloured. Your skin may also be more sensitive to sunlight during and after treatment. Tell your cancer doctor or nurse if you develop any skin changes or rashes.
Chemotherapy can affect your nails. They may grow more slowly or break more easily. You might notice ridges or white or dark lines across your nails. Sometimes nails can become loose or fall out. When treatment finishes, any changes usually disappear as the nails grow out.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you notice changes to your nails. They can give you advice or arrange for you to see a podiatrist for foot care advice if needed.
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Things To Expect After Chemotherapy
Fatigue is one of the most common things people complain of after chemotherapy. Additionally, chemotherapy-induced fatigue can be experienced both during the treatment and after the treatment.
The type of fatigue experienced after chemotherapy is not specific in terms of the duration its going to last. The severity and length of fatigue will depend greatly on a patient’s type of cancer, as well as the method of chemotherapy delivery.
Here are some things you can do to fight fatigue experienced after chemotherapy.
- Have a normal routine of sleeping and waking up in the same time each day.
- Keep yourself busy at the time of the day when you are feeling energetic.
- If you are working, take rest breaks and naps to reduce fatigue.
- Try doing things that you enjoy most. This helps to keep you relaxed.
- Change the way you perform tasks to make sure that you reduce muscle strain as much as possible. For example, sit when washing or cooking.
- You can also visit a doctor for advice on different ways through which you can deal with the effect like exercises and recommended diet.
2. Weight Changes
Fluctuation in weight is one of the most common things people expect after chemotherapy. According to research, some people gain more weight while others lose weight instead. In some case even the rate at which one gains or loses weight may change.
Differences vary wildly. Many patients will report an increase in appetite, while some will have trouble finding motivation to eat at all.
Its Not Just About Nausea And Hair Loss
When Paulette Sherman was treated for breast cancer several years ago, âI was shocked when my toenails fell off,â says Sherman, a psychologist and author living in Brooklyn, NY. âI knew my hair would fall out, but didnât remember telling me about the nails. It was a little upsetting at first, because it was one more way chemo was affecting my body.â
There are many types of chemotherapy. The side effects you have depend on what kind of chemo you get and how your body reacts to it. Hair loss and nausea are common, but they donât happen to everyone. Itâs also common to have other side effects that people donât talk about as much, such as trouble with memory and concentration, feeling dizzy, or having pain and numbness during or after chemo.
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Effects On The Nervous System
Some drugs can make you feel anxious, restless, dizzy, sleepy or have headaches. If you have any of these, it is important to tell your cancer doctor or nurse. They may be able to prescribe medicines that can help with some of these effects.
Some people find that chemotherapy makes them forgetful or unable to concentrate during or after treatment. Doctors sometimes call this cancer-related cognitive changes but it is sometimes known as chemo brain. If this happens, it is usually mild.
Tracking Your Side Effects Is Helpful
If you have side effects from chemotherapy that are bothersomesuch as nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, rash, swelling, or unusual pain around the injection siteyour healthcare team should be aware of them as soon as possible.
They will want to know how often you’re having problems, how severe they are, and how you’re coping with them.
It can be helpful to write down any symptoms you experience right after a treatment. Have a dedicated note in your smartphone or a notebook you can keep on hand for this purpose.
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Changes In How Your Kidneys Work
Some chemotherapy drugs can affect how well your kidneys work. Your kidney function will be checked with a blood test regularly during chemotherapy treatments.
You may be given fluids through a drip before and after the treatment. This is to keep your kidneys working normally. The nurses may ask you to drink plenty of fluids. They may also ask you to record how much fluid you drink and the amount of urine you pass.
Different Methods Of Chemotherapy
This refers to the different methods used in administering anticancer cells. These methods influence what to expect after chemotherapy. They include:
Intravenous . This refers to a procedure where the drugs are administered directly through your veins.
Orally. For this type of chemotherapy, the anticancer drugs are made in the form of pills, liquids or capsules that you are required to take directly.
Topically. The drug is made in cream form. You are required to rub the cream on your skin.
Intra-arterial . During this procedure, chemotherapy is done directly to the artery. This should be the artery that cancer cells are feeding from.
Intraperitoneal . This is a type of chemotherapy that makes use of the peritoneal, and it is administered directly. The peritoneal is the region containing organs like ovaries, intestines, liver and stomach.
Injection. The drugs are in form of injection and are always administered in certain parts of the body such as the arms muscles, hip, leg, thigh or belly.
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