If you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer, you might wonder what will happen next. Your treatment options will depend on what type of cancer you have and what stage it has progressed to and will be unique for each individual. Treatment may include surgery to remove the tumor, radiation, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, stem cell transplants, or chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy, also known as chemo, is commonly prescribed as part of the treatment plan, either alone or in conjunction with other therapies. Chemo uses drugs that kill active cells, most commonly administered either through injections or oral medications. Because chemotherapy cannot discern between healthy and cancer cells, it kills both kinds, manifesting in side effects. If cancer has progressed to stage two or higher, you will likely need to undergo chemotherapy. Here are some of the most common side effects you can expect and some ways to mitigate them.
One of the more common symptoms of chemotherapy is fatigue and is likely to increase with subsequent chemo cycles. You can’t necessarily get rid of it, but you can change your expectations of yourself through this period. Don’t expect to be able to do the same activities as before. Permit yourself not to do it all. Make sure that you are getting plenty of rest. Now is not the time to skimp on sleep. Sleep is the most vital thing for the body. It may be difficult to suffer from appetite loss or nausea, but you will feel much better with proper nutrition. A diet rich in plant-based whole foods will get you the nutrition you need and may even prevent future cancers.
Muscle pain, also known as Myalgias, is another common side effect of chemotherapy. You may only have pain in the area of cancer, or it could be widespread, affecting joints and further contributing to fatigue. Depression is a common symptom that comes along with chronic pain. If your pain is determined to be related to your treatments, they may be temporarily stopped, though this is not ideal. Your doctor might prescribe narcotics to help with the pain. If an infection is found to be the source of the pain, they may prescribe an antibiotic. Corticosteroids are another medication that may be administered. Often the pain is directly related to inflammation, and corticosteroids reduce inflammation.
One of the most difficult symptoms to cope with is the digestive troubles likely to ensue from the treatment. Stomach pain and nausea can lead to appetite loss. In addition, you may develop mouth or throat sores from the chemo attacking those healthy tissues. Diarrhea and its counterpart, constipation, are also par for the course. If you have mouth sores, a mechanical diet may help. A mechanical diet is that in which your food is blended, but that doesn’t mean that you have to eat baby food. There are plenty of foods that are already commonly blended and still palatable. Through smoothies and soups, an excellent way to meet your caloric, fiber, macronutrients, and micronutrients. You also must be sure that you are drinking enough water.
This is important whether you are experiencing constipation or diarrhea, as fluids will help to move your bowels if you are constipated. Conversely, if you have diarrhea, you may become dehydrated. Hydration is one of the first tenants of health and should be achieved by any means necessary. Many people already have an aversion to plain water. This is another reason to consume soups and smoothies, as they are an excellent way to sneak in some extra fluids. Juice is also a good way to stay hydrated and get in much-needed calories.
These are just a few of the symptoms of chemotherapy and ways to deal with them. If you find yourself experiencing any of these issues, try the coping mechanisms provided. Reach out to your doctor if you need further assistance.