Chemotherapy can have serious side effects. Here’s how to cope up with them

Published on: 28 February 2022, 12:00 pm IST

Cancer treatment may be taxing on you physically as well as mentally. Here’s how you can beat the side effects of chemotherapy.

Dr Vinayak M
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side effects of chemotherapy
Here are a few ways in which you can handle the side effects of chemotherapy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Living with cancer is psychologically, physically, and emotionally demanding. Chemotherapy works by destroying rapidly dividing cancer cells, but it can also kill healthy cells, resulting in nausea, exhaustion, and hair loss as a result of the damage. Fortunately, as cancer science has advanced, so has the science of treating and minimizing the side effects of chemotherapy. You may, however, cope with the side effects of chemotherapy in a variety of ways.

Which symptoms you get, and how severe they are, will be determined by the drugs you take and how your body reacts to them.

Here are some likely side effects of chemotherapy and how one can deal with them:

1. Exercise to combat chemo-induced fatigue

Exercise has been demonstrated to reduce edema, weariness, and depression, as well as speed up recovery.
You may feel fatigued, but there are strategies to help you deal with it:

  • Exercise. A quick walk can help you feel more energized.
  • Ask family or friends for assistance.
  • Concentrate your efforts on the most critical issues.

Consult your doctor if you can’t seem to get rid of your sleepy sensation. Fatigue can sometimes be an indication of anemia, also be caused by chemotherapy.

kidneys
Make physical activity a part of your daily life. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Take prescription medication to stop nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are two of the most prevalent and feared side effects of chemotherapy. Antiemetics, or anti-nausea medications, are now available in a variety of dosages.

In addition to taking an anti-nausea medicine, eating many small meals (rather than three large meals) a day, avoiding greasy or spicy foods, and keeping your head elevated for an hour after eating can help alleviate chemo-induced nausea. According to the National Cancer Institute, some evidence suggests that acupuncture and relaxation techniques including deep breathing, listening to music, meditation, and reading a book can assist with chemo-related nausea.

3. Loss of hair

To reduce hair loss, consider wearing a cooling cap. Some chemotherapy treatments damage the cells in your hair follicles, causing your hair to thin or fall out entirely. Ask your doctor if wearing a cooling cap during cancer treatment can help reduce your risk as cooling tightens, or constricts, blood vessels in the scalp, limiting the medication reaching the hair follicles.

how to stop hair fall
Wearing a cooling cap may help stop the hair fall post chemotherapy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. To avoid infection, wash hands frequently

Chemotherapy reduces the number of white blood cells crucial in the fight against viral and bacterial invaders, produced by the bone marrow, suppressing immunological function

Increase your handwashing vigilance during treatment before and after eating and before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and that you take an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you to clean your hands when you’re out. Notify your cancer team as soon as you see any signs of infection, such as fever, cough, or diarrhea. The sooner it’s detected, the better.

5. Chemo Brain

The mental fog that some people experience after undergoing chemotherapy can be dealt with:

  • Use a daily planner to keep track of appointments, names, addresses, phone numbers, and to-do lists.
  • Keep your mind occupied; enroll in a class, go to a lecture, or solve crossword puzzles.
  • Get enough exercise, sleep, and nutrition.
  • Focus concentration on one thing at a time.

6. Complementary treatments

Consult your doctor for the appropriate anti-nausea medication for you. You may need to test a variety of medications until you find one that works best for you.
Acupuncture, Mind-Body Techniques Acupuncture, Massage therapy etc are examples of modern therapies and can help with swelling, discomfort, nausea, stress, sexual side effects, and other issues.

You can work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that incorporates a variety of coping skills and therapies to help you return to your normal routine.

Dr Vinayak M Dr Vinayak M

Senior Consultant Medical Oncology at Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road, Bengaluru

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