For many people, fighting cancer is an all-consuming journey. It takes physical and mental strength to focus on healing, and to withstand the side effects that go along with cancer treatments.
Easing and managing side effects
The side effects people endure vary, since each person’s health factors, type of cancer treatment and frequency of treatment are different. Some people experience no side effects, while others react physically and emotionally to treatment. Fortunately, there are ways to ease and manage many side effects.
Managing loss of appetite during cancer treatment
If you lose your appetite while undergoing treatment, getting the nutrition you need to stay strong is a challenge. The following tips may help you regain your appetite:
- Drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.
- Choose healthy, high-nutrient foods and eat small, frequent meals. Include plenty of nutrient-dense foods that are high in protein and calories.
- Be as active as possible by taking take a short walk each day to spark hunger.
Beating the fatigue side effect
Cancer-related fatigue can be one of the most difficult side effects to overcome. You may need to try several approaches to regain your energy and maintain a routine, including:
- Relaxing by listening to music, reading, meditating or spending time with people you love. Relaxing can help you save your energy and lower stress.
- Taking short naps during the day, and when you have energy, do the things that require more mental and physical effort.
- Consulting aregistered dietitian to learn about foods and drinks that can increase your energy.
- Meeting with a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist to get help coping with difficult thoughts and feelings that can drain your energy.
Controlling pain caused by cancer treatment
Pain can suppress the immune system, delay healing, interfere with sleep and affect your mood. Here are a few ways to manage pain:
- Track your pain levels each day. Take note of when you feel pain, where you hurt, when it starts, how long it lasts and what makes it feel better or worse. This will help you describe the pain to your doctor or nurse.
- Take prescribed medication at the right time. Don’t wait until your pain gets worse! This could extend the time it takes for your meds to work, or increase the dosage needed to lessen pain.
- Ask about integrative therapies to treat your pain, such as acupuncture, biofeedback, hypnosis, massage therapy and physical therapy.
Dealing with hair loss (alopecia) during cancer treatment
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can cause hair loss. Some approaches to dealing with hair loss include:
- Using a soft-bristled hairbrush or a wide-tooth comb. Avoid hair dryers, irons, gels or clips that may hurt your scalp. Wash your hair less often with a mild shampoo. If your scalp feels itchy or tender, try using leave-in conditioners to ease the discomfort.
- “Embracing” your hair loss by opting for a short haircut or shaving your head. Some people buy fashionable wigs or wear comfortable, decorative scarves or turbans.
- Protecting your scalp by using sunscreen or wearing a hat.
- Talking about any feelings of depression or embarrassment about your hair loss through cancer support groups. Also, communicating openly with close family members can help.
Combating memory and concentration side effects
Chemotherapy and some types of biological and radiation therapies can affect thinking, concentration and memory. To combat these problems:
- Exercise to alleviate stress, feel more alert and to release endorphins or “feel-good chemicals.” Mind-body practices like meditation or mental exercises like puzzles or games may also help you stay alert.
- Keep lists of medications, names and phone numbers. Use a daily planner, your smart phone, or other device to help you remember important activities.
Leading-edge cancer care and total support in San Antonio
Providing those fighting cancer with every available treatment, resource and means of support is our primary focus at The START Center for Cancer Care. From research-based therapies to genetic testing, our physicians and teams of specialists provide care like no other cancer facility in the region.
To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 210-745-6841 or click here to find a START Center near you.