It’s true that chemotherapy is highly effective in killing off cancer cells. However, the treatment cannot really point out the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells in the body that, just like cancer cells, divide rapidly. When the drugs used in chemotherapy attack the cells of the digestive tract, hair, skin, reproductive organs, bone marrow and others, that’s when the various side effects of chemotherapy takes place.
There are different chemotherapy side effects, and the severity varies from case to case. Below are a few of the usual side effects that you may experience after undergoing chemotherapy and some ways to deal with them.
One of the most common side effects of chemotherapy is fatigue. The feeling of extreme tiredness can keep you from doing most of the daily activities you carry out prior to having chemotherapy. Usually accompanied by drowsiness, confusion and a heavy feeling in the limbs, fatigue can be an incapacitating side effect.
Saving your energy is one of the smartest moves to take. Do only important things and take a lot of rest. Asking for the help of family and friends allows you to conserve the little energy you have. Make sure that your diet consists of nutritious foods, including those rich in complex carbohydrates. Doing light exercises can help deal with fatigue as well as aid in the production of extra energy.
Nausea and Vomiting
Chemotherapy can have a considerable impact on your digestive system. Aside from wreaking havoc to your appetite, you may also feel nauseated or cause you to vomit. They can be felt a few hours after the treatment. It’s not unlikely for them to last for several days too. Anti-nausea or anti-emetic drugs may be administered before, during or after chemotherapy.
Drinking fluids is important to keep dehydration at bay. Rather than drinking a lot of fluids at once, it’s a good idea to take sips or suck on ice chips throughout the day. Fizzy drinks and ginger tea or ale may help with an upset stomach. Make sure that you chew your food very well for easy digestion. Instead of eating 3 square meals daily, it’s a better idea to have small frequent meals. Having crackers before getting off the bed may help with morning sickness.
Cells in your mouth are rapidly dividing just like cancer cells, and that’s why drugs used in chemotherapy attack them too. To keep the side effects of chemotherapy on the mouth manageable, it’s important to practice proper mouth care.
Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush to save the gums from bleeding. Refrain from flossing if it makes your gums bleed, especially if you have very low platelet count. It’s recommendable for you to quit using mouth washes with high alcohol content. Oral sores are severe side effects and you should inform your health care provider about their presence. Warm salt water gargles and avoidance of hot, spicy and acidic foods should be done when mouth sores are present.
Diarrhea or Constipation
Having loose stools is not unlikely if you’re undergoing chemotherapy. It’s a good idea to opt for foods that are easy to digest such as soups and gelatin. Opting for low-fiber foods as well as avoiding dairy products may also help deal with diarrhea. Drinking plenty of fluids helps replace lost fluids and ward off dehydration.
On the other hand, increasing fiber and fluid intake is highly recommendable if you are suffering from constipation. If you fail to have a bowel movement a couple of days after having chemotherapy, tell your health care provider about it so you may be prescribed with laxatives or stool softeners.
Another area of the body where chemotherapy side effects may take place is the skin. Drugs used for the treatment may cause skin itchiness, scaling, peeling, redness and darkening.
Daily, your skin should be kept clean and dry to prevent further problems such as skin sores and infections. Applying moisturizers helps in dealing with excessive skin dryness. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 in case you develop sensitivity to the sun.