Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy drugs are cancer treatments used to stop the abnormal growth of cells that characterizes the disease. These treatments can cause a variety of side effects that can be debilitating or uncomfortable. Fortunately, many remedies are available to help patients manage these effects.
Fatigue often occurs during cancer treatment and can be a result of the rigors of the therapy or stress related to treatment. Patients are encouraged to alternate periods of rest with periods of gentle exercise to increase oxygenation of tissues and circulation in the body. Prioritizing activities and getting help from family and friends for everyday chores can help to reduce daily fatigue during cancer treatment.
Pain can come from the cancer itself or from surgical treatment of the cancer. Your physician can prescribe a number of medications to help with pain. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully to get the greatest benefit from these medications.
Nausea – Vomiting
During radiation or chemotherapy, certain areas of the brain and esophagus may be affected causing nausea or vomiting. Your physician can prescribe effective medications to help treat nausea and vomiting during treatment. Other treatments such as relaxation techniques, acupuncture, music therapy or biofeedback can also help.
During cancer treatment, many people become anemic when the normal amount of red blood cells in the body is not available to carry oxygen throughout the system. Eating iron-rich foods like leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, beans or seeds can help raise red blood cell levels. In some cases, medications are given to increase red blood cell production.
Lymphedema is a buildup of fluid beneath the skin that sometimes occurs after surgery or radiation therapy. Massage, exercise, special bandages and compression garments may be necessary to treat the fluid buildup.
Infections may be more frequent in patients getting cancer treatment because the natural defensive mechanisms of the body may be affected by radiation or chemotherapy. Careful monitoring of infections by your physician will allow him or her to intervene with antibiotics or other medications if necessary.
Infertility can be a side effect from cancer treatment. Sperm or egg storage may be an option for those who have not yet completed their families. A frank discussion with your doctor will allow you to make good decisions if you plan to have children in the future.
For men, prostate cancer treatment can often have the side effect of incontinence, in which urine dribbles or leaks from the urethra. Adult incontinence products can be helpful for preventing embarrassing social incidents in these patients.