Sunday, March 3, 2024

What To Expect After Completing All Chemo Treatments

Practical Hints For Menopausal Symptoms

Julie’s Story: From colon cancer diagnosis to her last chemo infusion
  • 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.

Side Effects Of Chemotherapy And How To Deal With Them

Story submitted by Sue Weber, RN, MEd, OCN, TriHealth Cancer Institute

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Chemotherapy affects any fast-growing cells in the body, like the ones that line your mouth and intestines, as well as the cells that make up your bone marrow and hair follicles, With chemo, normal, healthy cells should bounce back and, ideally, the cancer cells dont. Chemo may be used to:

  • Cure the cancer
  • Prevent the cancer from spreading
  • Relieve symptoms the cancer may be causing

Sue Weber, RN, MEd, OCN, of the TriHealth Cancer Institute, explains common side effects of chemo and ways to deal with each.

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. Certain types of chemo sometimes cause delayed effects, such as a second cancer that may show up many years later.

People often become discouraged about how long their treatment lasts or the side effects they have. If you feel this way, talk to your cancer care team. You may be able to change your medicine or treatment schedule. They also may be able to suggest ways to reduce any pain and discomfort you have.

Read Also: How To Support Someone Going Through Chemo

What Is Cancer Survivorship

Having cancer may feel like running a hard race toward a finish line. People with cancer may keep the line in mind as they do their best to power through cancers challenges. Finishing treatment, however, may not always mean theyve crossed the finish line.

Some people are cancer-free after their initial treatment but dont feel free from cancer. Other people still see the finish line, but they keep running into cancer. For others, the finish line they reach is very different from the one they expected.

Thats where cancer survivorship comes in. Cancer survivorship programs carry people through cancer, helping them to live as long as they can and with the best possible quality of life.

Q: Is There Anything Else You Would Like To Add

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A: I am often impressed by the enormous expressions of gratitude I hear from cancer survivors. Many patients speak of feeling moved by expressions of kindness they received from people they barely knew and how much these moments of compassion sustained them during difficult times. Many cancer survivors want to give back, and you will find them volunteering or acting as advocates at cancer clinics and philanthropic organizations.

It’s also important to recognize that many cancer survivors face an uncertain future and feel unsettled. We can listen and partner with them, letting them know they are not alone.

Dr. Schapira is the Director of Cancer Survivorship at the Stanford Comprehensive Cancer Institute and the 20152021 Editor in Chief of Cancer.Net.

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Q: What Are Some Of The Emotional Concerns Patients Have Once Treatment Ends

A: These include worries about cancer recurrence, one’s identity and future, and dying young or leaving things undone. Some patients may also suffer from poor body image or low self-esteem because of the treatment they received and changes it caused. They often need help to learn to accept their new body.

Q: What Should Patients And Oncologists Discuss During The Last Few Appointments During The Treatment Period

A: These last few appointments should be structured to allow time to review the full cancer treatment received and to discuss what comes next. Needs of individual patients vary considerably. For example, some patients prefer to race through treatment without asking questions and then need and deserve an opportunity to go over what just happened to them and confirm they have a clear understanding of what will follow. At some point after cancer treatment is complete, a patient’s main medical care may eventually move back to their primary care physician. Cancer survivors often say they feel lost in this transition. I recommend each patient takes time with their oncologist to clarify the follow-up schedule of visits and tests recommended for the future. This helps make it clear who will lead each part of their survivorship care and what to expect.

Patients can also use these visits to have deeper conversations about their future health, seek advice on how to manage side effects, or get referrals to supportive services. These visits may serve as a reminder to address the important issues of maintaining other areas of their general health. Overall, the goal of these discussions is to make sure that the patient has proper follow-up for their cancer-related and other health-related problems and that the patient knows how their primary care physician will be involved.

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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.

Appetite And Taste Changes

Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy

During chemotherapy, you may experience taste and appetite changes and a heightened sensitivity to odors. Don’t worry if you don’t have an appetite the first few days or a week following chemotherapy it is not unusual. As you feel better, your appetite will improve.

Reflux when food backs up into your esophagus burping, or a burning sensation may worsen nausea. Please report these symptoms to your physician or nurse so that they can be treated. You may find that you can only tolerate certain foods. We encourage you to eat what appeals to you during this time, and to drink enough fluids: eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses per day, more if you have a fever or diarrhea.

Recommendations for healthy nutrition include a diet low in fat and high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and plant-based proteins. Some people want to begin dietary changes during active therapy others prefer to wait until chemotherapy is completed. Some people prefer small, slow changes, while others benefit from a “major overhaul.” We encourage you to become informed and make healthy dietary and lifestyle changes.

Many people gain weight while on chemotherapy for reasons that are not well understood. Again, if you have concerns about nutrition, please consult our staff dietitian.

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What Do Healthcare Providers Help With Cancer Survivorship

Like cancer treatment, cancer survivorship support is a team effort. Your cancer survivorship team may include:

  • Oncologists: These doctors managed your cancer treatment. People with recurring or advanced forms of cancer typically see their oncologists more frequently than people treated for early-stage cancer do.
  • Primary care providers: If treatment eliminated cancer signs and symptoms, you may work with your primary care provider more frequently than your oncology team.
  • Psychologists: People with cancer often have depression and anxiety. Psychologists with specific experience in helping people with cancer may offer counseling and other therapies.
  • Oncology social workers: Social workers help people cope with cancer survivorship issues such as adjusting to lifestyle changes. They may also refer people to national and regional resources for cancer survivorship.
  • Oncology-certified dieticians: Some people with cancer have trouble eating even after completing treatment. These healthcare providers help you establish a healthy diet.

Many healthcare organizations offer integrated cancer survivorship programs that coordinate resources such as occupational or exercise therapy. Sometimes, healthcare providers offer cancer survivorship programs tailored to specific cancers and issues.

Will I Ever Feel Normal After Chemo Treatment

Chemotherapy the use of toxic chemicals to kill cancer cells is one of the most common cancer treatments. And while chemotherapy has a long history of proven success, it can take a physical and mental toll on patients.

Chemo can make you feel awful, and patients often want to know, Can we have a normal life after a cancer treatment?

It can be hard to imagine getting back to normal life.

Sometimes the treatment can be as rough as the disease, said Erin Mclaughlin, an oncology nurse navigator at OSF HealthCare. Its important to remind patients that treatment will pass, and they will regain normalcy.

When youre going through chemo, its easier to push through mentally when there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Practical Hints For Hair Loss

  • It is not always necessary to buy a real wig. Synthetic wigs can look as good and are less expensive, easier to care for, lighter in weight and may be more comfortable to wear.
  • Before possible hair loss, some people like to cut their hair short. The hair loss won’t be quite so shocking if there is less hair to lose.
  • Put a towel over your pillow so that clean up in the morning will be easier while you are shedding your hair.
  • Buy a drain catch for your shower. Other people choose to shave their head hair when hair loss begins.
  • Refer to our wig information sheet for places to shop near you.
  • Refer to the Friend to Friend Gift Shop or the Cancer Resource Center for more information.
  • When buying a wig, take a friend for emotional support and maybe even a laugh!

How Often And How Long Is Chemotherapy

The Best Hair Regrowth After Chemo Photos 2022

It depends on the type of cancer you have, the way it responds to treatment and your ability to tolerate the treatment. Your doctor will talk to you about the time period planned for your course of treatment. You may have chemotherapy over 3 to 6 months but treatment may also be shorter or longer.

You will usually have several treatment cycles with periods of rest in between to allow normal cells to recover. These can be given over a few days, weeks or months, and some on a long-term basis.

Maintenance chemotherapy to prevent cancer coming back and palliative treatment to control the cancer, may continue for months or even years.

If you are worried about how long the treatment is taking or the impact of side effects, talk to your treatment team.

Read Also: Stage 4 Liver Cancer Life Expectancy

What To Do If You Are Worried

There are many different chemotherapy drugs and they all have different side effects. Ask your doctor or specialist nurse about the drugs you are having if you are worried about long term effects from your treatment.

The National Survivorship Initiative is a partnership between NHS England and Macmillan Cancer Support. They are looking at the issues people have when they finish cancer treatment, including long term side effects, so that they get the support they need to lead as healthy and active life as possible.

  • Handbook of Cancer Chemotherapy R T Skeel and S N KhleifLippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2011

  • Handbook of Systemic Treatments for Cancer

    L Doughtery, A McWhiter and P Jones

    Lilly Oncology 2014

How Long After Chemo Does Your Body Get Back To Normal

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to a timeframe. Everyone is different and the amount of time you spend recovering depends on multiple factors.

Even though theres not set amount of time to fixate on, theres a lot you can do to help yourself move forward:

Self-Nourishment Much like food feeds your body, experiences feed your soul. Its important to give yourself exactly what you need at any given time. Want to take that nap you used to feel guilty about? Go for it! Read new books, listen to new music, pay attention to your needs, and most of all enjoy yourself.

Socialize You might be feeling a bit low after treatment has been completed, which is common. Surround yourself with a solid support system this can come in the form of family, friends, or an actual support group. Joining a group with other survivors will help forge a connection with others who have had similar experiences.

Set Goals Your survival gives you a second chance at life a chance to focus on what truly matters most to you. This could be as small as writing in a journal every day or walking every morning, or as large as starting your own business out of your home. Whatever the case may be, setting goals for yourself will feel you with an overwhelming sense of positivity and accomplishment.

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What Happens During Radiation

The treatment is normally Monday through Friday and lasts about 45 minutes. A lot of time is spent getting your body in the right position, so the radiation hits its desired locations. You lay down on a custom-molded table. A technician positions your body using lasers and measurements. When you are aligned, a mouthguard and wired head case are placed on your body to ensure you do not move. This may seem scary, but this ensures the radiation does not hit healthy areas.

The radiation takes a couple of minutes. You can sense when the radiation hits your body if you receive radiation to your brain. Some patients see colors, others smell specific scents, and some, like me, can taste it it is not very pleasant but it is all normal. If the radiation does not touch your brain, there is no feeling or sensation, almost like it isnt there.

Ask Your Doctor For A Survivorship Care Plan

What Is Chemotherapy – Macmillan Cancer Support

Talk with your doctor about developing a survivorship care plan for you. This plan might include:

  • A summary of your diagnosis, the tests that were done, and the treatment you received
  • A suggested schedule for follow-up exams and tests
  • A schedule for other tests you might need in the future, such as early detection tests for other types of cancer, or tests to look for long-term health effects from the breast cancer or its treatment
  • A list of possible late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, including what to watch for and when you should contact your doctor
  • Diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle modification suggestions

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Tips To Get The Most From Your Follow

Write down any questions or concerns beforehand

It’s easy to forget what you want to say once youre at your appointment.

Bring someone with you

It can be hard to take everything in at your appointments. Some people find it helpful to take someone with them, to listen and discuss things with later. If your appointment is on the phone, you could ask a friend or family member to listen with you.

Make notes

It can help to write things down during or after your appointment. Theres space for this in the appointment diary in our booklet, Follow-up after prostate cancer treatment: What happens next?

Ask to record your appointment

You could do this using your phone or another recording device. You have the right to record your appointment if you want to because its your personal data. But let your doctor or nurse know if you are recording them.

Ask for help

If there is anything bothering you, let your doctor or nurse know.

Ask for copies of any letters

If your appointment is at the hospital, ask for a copy of the letter that is sent to your GP. This will happen automatically at some hospitals. It will help to remind you of what was said at your appointment. If you don’t understand the letter, call your main contact at the hospital or contact our Specialist Nurses.

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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