Understanding (And Coping With) Chemotherapy's Side Effects

Posted on: 23 October 2019

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Chemotherapy has saved the lives of a great many cancer survivors — and it could make all the difference in your own struggle with the disease. Unfortunately, the price you pay for your eventual triumph may involve more than just money. Unpleasant side effects are an inevitable aspect of this treatment method, since the same chemicals that kills cancer cells can interfere with healthy physical processes as well during a course of treatment. It pays to be prepared, so check out this overview of some common chemo side effects and what you can do about them.

Chemotherapy vs. Eating

Chemotherapy can affect both your appreciation for food and your ability to hold that food down. Nausea is a common chemo side effect, and this symptom can sometimes prove strong enough to make you vomit. Part of your negative experience may stem from the fact that certain foods, notably red meats, can take on an unpleasant taste while you're undergoing chemotherapy. You may need to make a list of those foods and then avoid them until your treatment has finished. Greasy foods can also make chemo patients sick, so now would be a good time to cut these foods from your diet. Meal size can make a difference in how well you hold your food down; try eating several small meals instead of two or three full-sized ones.

Why You're Losing Your Hair

Hair loss is one of the more notorious side effects of chemotherapy, if only because it's so visible. Don't be too alarmed if your hair tends to fall out in clumps during your treatment. Chemotherapy typically targets the cells that divide most rapidly — cancer cells in particular. The cells in your hair follicles happen to divide on a relatively rapid schedule, so they also get affected as a sort of "collateral damage." The good news is that most patients grow their hair back after their chemotherapy has ended, although the color and texture may be slightly different. In the meantime, ask your oncologist whether you can wear a cooling cap, which may reduce the damage to your hair follicles. (If there's a risk that it will also inhibit your treatment, your oncologist may advise against it.) Hats, wigs, and scarves can help you feel more stylish and confident until your hair grows back.

Feeling Run Down?

That whole-body fatigue you're feeling affects many chemotherapy patients. The drugs used can cause extreme tiredness in unpredictable bouts, even when you haven't been exerting yourself. Chemotherapy can also affect your mental energy and alertness, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as "chemo brain." You can fight that run-down feeling in a number of ways. Start by avoiding everyday sources of physical, environmental, or emotional stress. Make your everyday tasks easier on your body by adopting a healthy posture and limiting physical exertion. Pace yourself and focus on top-priority tasks. At the same time, however, make a little room in your schedule for low-impact physical and mental exercise.

Defeating cancer isn't easy or pleasant, but you can look back on this journey with a genuine sense of accomplishment and gratitude. In the meantime, don't let your side effects dictate your life — instead, take the proper steps to help yourself maintain your quality of life!

For more information, reach out to a company like Silver Cancer Institute