WHATS YOUR PLAN - Manage Side Effects of Chemo & Other Cancer Treatments

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Contents

  1. Chemotherapy Side Effects | Vomiting, Hair Loss, Nerve Damage, Fatigue
  2. Goals of drug therapy
  3. What are common side effects?
  4. What's your plan?: Manage side effects of chemo & other cancer treatments
  5. Chemotherapy

If you need major dental work, try to postpone it until after chemotherapy. If you need your teeth cleaned while receiving chemotherapy, please let your doctor or nurse know beforehand and discuss any concerns. You can have a family member, friend or support person accompany you to your chemotherapy sessions. We recognize that cancer has an impact on you as a whole person and also on your family and loved ones. To varying degrees, all people with cancer struggle with the challenges of coping and adjusting to these life changes. Chemotherapy lowers the number of white blood cells WBCs your body makes.

White blood cells are made in the bone marrow and help fight against infection. Neutrophils are one type of WBC that fights infection. Often your neutrophil count will determine whether or not you will receive chemotherapy on schedule. You must call your cancer specialist if you experience these symptoms, even if it's at night or on the weekend. An infection is most likely to occur when your neutrophil count is low. You are most susceptible to a bacterial infection about seven to 12 days after your chemotherapy infusion.

Chemotherapy Side Effects | Vomiting, Hair Loss, Nerve Damage, Fatigue

Most bacterial infections result from your body's inability to fight off normal bacteria present in your gastrointestinal tract or skin. Bacterial infections do not commonly result from being in a crowded place. So, if you are feeling well, we encourage you to continue to go out to the movies or out for a meal. However, viral infections such as colds and flu are common and are transmitted easily from other people.

To reduce your chance of infection, wash your hands frequently and avoid close contact with anyone who is ill during this time. Around the third day following a chemotherapy treatment, some people may experience flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches and pains. If you experience these aches, you can take over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil.

If necessary, contact your doctor for stronger medication.

Goals of drug therapy

Medications called antiemetics or anti-nausea drugs are used to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. Not all chemotherapy drugs cause nausea. Many anti-nausea drugs are available, and your doctor or nurse will recommend what is expected to work best for you. If possible, have your prescriptions filled before your treatment day. Please call your doctor or nurse if your medications do not give you adequate relief or if you experience side effects with the anti-nausea medication.

For more practical tips on dealing with nausea, schedule a free appointment with the dietitian by contacting the Cancer Resource Center. Chemotherapy can make you feel tired. This fatigue may or may not worsen as you are treated with more cycles of chemotherapy. Most people have to make some adjustments in work and family responsibilities; the degree of change is very individual. Try to balance activity and rest.

As much as possible, try to maintain your everyday activities. It can be very beneficial to both your physical and emotional recovery. The fatigue will go away after you recover from chemotherapy. Many people feel that hair loss is one of the most difficult aspects of chemotherapy treatment.

Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss, so talk to your physician or nurse about what to expect. Most often, hair loss begins about two to three weeks after starting chemotherapy. Some people will lose relatively little hair, while others may lose the hair on their head, eyelashes and eyebrows, as well as other body hair.

You may want to cover your head with a wig, scarf, hat or turban, or you may not want to cover your head at all.


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Do what makes you most comfortable. Many people choose different head coverings for different situations. Feel Better! If you decide to buy a wig, try to buy one while you still have your own hair so you can better match color and style. You may want to ask your doctor for a prescription for a "cranial prosthesis" i.

Your hair will begin to grow back after you stop chemotherapy. It usually takes from two to three months to see the change from no hair to some hair. Your new hair may be slightly different in color and texture than your old hair. Often, the new hair will be baby soft and curly, but will generally return to its original texture after some time.

What are common side effects?

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 less than 20 percent 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. 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. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause diarrhea.

If you have more than three or four watery stools in 24 hours or blood in your stool, call your doctor or nurse. Do NOT use over the counter anti-diarrhea medications like Imodium unless advised to do so by your physician or nurse. Some chemotherapy and anti-nausea drugs can cause constipation. Also, you may be more prone to constipation because your activity level and diet have changed. If you experience constipation, contact your doctor or nurse the same day. Another side effect of chemotherapy can be mouth sores and discomfort when swallowing. Mouth sores occur because chemotherapy not only destroys cancer cells, but also rapidly dividing cells, such as those that line your mouth and esophagus.

Please call your practitioner should you develop painful mouth sores or have difficulty swallowing. A special mouth rinse may be prescribed. Neuropathy, which means disease or dysfunction of the nerves, can happen to some people. Some of the most common symptoms of the type of neuropathy caused by chemotherapy include tingling and burning, numbness or pain in the affected areas, loss of your sense of position — knowing where a body part is without looking at it — and loss of balance.

The most commonly affected areas are the tips of fingers and toes, although other areas are sometimes affected as well. Tell your doctor about any symptoms that you experience.

Chemotherapy: Stomach Side Effects

Early detection and treatment are the best way to control your symptoms and prevent further nerve damage. For women, chemotherapy may temporarily stop your periods or result in permanent menopause. The effects depend on the type of chemotherapy administered, your age and how close you are to naturally occurring menopause. With menopause, you may experience symptoms such as hot flashes, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, mood changes and sleeping disturbances.

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What's your plan?: Manage side effects of chemo & other cancer treatments

If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor or nurse to get information and treatment for the symptoms. If your periods continue during treatment, they are likely to change in duration, flow and regularity. The changes may be temporary, lasting only while on chemotherapy, or the changes may lead to menopause. If you have a question or concern, staff will take your message and your nurse or physician will call you back. Please allow two days notice for medication refills. If you are calling at night, on a weekend or a holiday, please call the same clinic number.

You will speak with a staff member of the answering service who will take your name and number. A physician will be paged and will call you back. Please be prepared to tell the answering service:.

Chemotherapy

Please remember that we are here to make this time less difficult for you and call us with any questions or concerns. UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

Caregiver fatigue can be brought on by the physical and emotional demands of caring for a loved one with a serious illness. Learn tips to combat caregiver fatigue here. The relationship with a doctor is a very personal one, built on communication and trust.


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In choosing a doctor, the "chemistry" between the two of you must work. Fatigue caused by cancer treatment can make it difficult to accomplish even the smallest of tasks. Learn how task delegation can help with this fatigue. Nausea is a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Find practical tips and suggested foods to help with nausea here. Living with or caring for someone with cancer can be a full-time job.