The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every year in the United States, there are about 650,000 cancer patients that receive chemotherapy from an outpatient oncology clinic. Patients who are receiving chemotherapy are at risk for different side effects depending on the treatment received and the individual’s state of health.
What are common side effects?
The purpose of chemotherapy is to travel throughout the body and attack fast-growing cells. This helps to deter the cancerous cells, but it also affects fast-growing, healthy cells. This is why side effects occur. The American Cancer Society provides this list of common side effects:
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite changes
- Mouth, tongue and throat problems such as sores and pain with swallowing
- Nerve and muscle problems such as numbness, tingling, and pain
- Skin and nail changes such as dry skin and color change
- Urine and bladder changes and kidney problems
- Weight changes
- “Chemo brain,” which can affect concentration and focus
- Mood changes
- Changes in libido and sexual function
- Fertility problems
Practical coping strategies
Many side effects go away fairly quickly, though some last longer than others. Here are some ways to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy.
- Exercise→ Even a small amount of exercise every day, such as taking a walk, can be very helpful for the fatigue many patients face. Being active can also help to manage emotional stress that comes with chemotherapy. As always, listen to your body and be safe in your exercise. Some activities may need to be adjusted or shortened, but can still be done.
- Maintain a healthy diet→ Your body is working hard and will benefit from a nutrient-rich diet. The University of California San Francisco recommends maintaining a low-fat diet that is rich in plant-based protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It’s also important to stay well-hydrated throughout your treatment process.
- Seek emotional support→ As you are undergoing all of these changes, it will be important to seek the emotional support of those around you. Many cancer treatment centers have programs available that offer support and counseling for patients and their families. When you feel you are in need of these services, be sure to ask your doctor about what options are available to you.
- Keep a journal→ Keeping a record of how you’re feeling emotionally and physically can be very helpful for your emotional state and help doctors when adjusting your treatment. As you keep a detailed record of the side effects you experience, when they occur and their severity, your doctors can make more informed decisions about the next steps for your treatment.
- Stick to a routine→ This tactic can help with the side effect of memory loss. Maintaining a steady routine also can help with anxiety as it eliminates a lot of the “what ifs” or “unknowns” in your situation.
- Communicate with your doctor→ It is important to make your doctor aware of any new side effects you may be experiencing as there is medication available to help alleviate many symptoms such as nausea and mouth sores.
The best thing to remember is that you are in charge of your health. Be aware of your body and if you find something unusual, tell your doctor.
The physicians and staff of Revere Health Cancer Center are dedicated to providing highly personalized care for patients diagnosed with cancer. We care for and guide our patients through the entire continuum of cancer diagnosis, treatment and management.
Sources: “Chemotherapy Side Effects” Cancer Care https://www.cancercare.org/chemo-side-effects?gclid=Cj0KCQjw0IDtBRC6ARIsAIA5gWskhuH0xss1R1qWfRISlDblat-hrGZHG800AqW16TMsxbgouAxKYCgaAlIgEALw_wcB “Side Effects of Chemotherapy” American Society of Clinical Oncology https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/chemotherapy/side-effects-chemotherapy “Chemotherapy Side Effects” American Cancer Society https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/chemotherapy/chemotherapy-side-effects.html “What are the side effects of chemotherapy?” Medical News Today https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323485.php