Common Side Effects Include:
- Appetite Changes
- Bleeding Problems
- Protect yourself by:
Using an electric shaver, not a razor
Wearing shoes all the time, to protect your feet
Blowing your nose gently
Brushing your teeth with a very soft toothbrush
Telling your doctor or nurse if you have hard bowel movements or feel constipated
Talking with your doctor or nurse before you take any medicine, vitamins, or herbs
- Don't do things that could make it easier to bleed, such as:
dental floss or toothpicks
picking at pimples or scabs
playing rough sports
putting anything in your rectum, not even a thermometer or medicine
using tampons (Be sure to use pads.)
- Hair Loss
- Memory Changes
- Mouth and Throat Changes
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Nerve Changes
Some individuals who receive chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer notice problems with their memory or their attention. These problems can range from things like forgetting where you left your car keys (or your car) or what you planned to pick up at the grocery store to problems doing several things at once and keeping them all straight. People who have suffered from such problems during and after chemotherapy have labeled the condition “chemobrain.”
If you are bothered by such changes, there are things you can do to compensate for and even improve your memory, attention and general cognitive functioning. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use notes, calendars, and planners consistently. Write it down.
- Organize or structure your daily activities.
- Organize or categorize the information you want to remember.
- Use associations or mnemonics to help remember lists.
- Use more than one sensory modality. For instance, read or write it (visual) and say it out loud (auditory).
- Be specific (rather than general) about what you want to remember.
- Use repetition. Practice, practice, practice.
Many cancer patients experience times of sadness and emotional turmoil. Since sadness is common, it is important to understand the difference between sadness and depression.
Depression generally improves with treatment, and any patients experiencing these symptoms for two or more weeks should be treated in order to improve their quality of life. Both psychotherapy and medication have been shown to be useful in treating depression in cancer patients.
Constipation is a common side effect from pain medication. It can also be caused by not drinking enough fluids as well as inactivity, immobility, depression and anxiety caused by cancer treatment or cancer pain.
Eat high-fiber foods such as:
- Whole-grain breads and cereals
- Fruits and vegetable
- Nuts, seeds, and popcorn
Drink lots of liquids.
- Most people need to drink at least 8 cups of liquid every day. Water is a good choice. So are fruit and vegetable juices, such as prune juice.
- Warm liquids such as coffee or tea may help.
Try to be active every day.
- Walk or ride an exercise bike for 15 to 30 minutes a day.
- Talk with your doctor to learn about other exercises that can help you.
Diarrhea means frequent loose bowel movements. You may also experience abdominal pain and cramping. Diarrhea can be caused by medications such as antibiotics, infections, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Nausea and vomiting may be caused by the following:
- Certain chemotherapy drugs
- Heartburn or reflux
- Radiation therapy
- Tumors in the brain
- Anxiety or worry
- Some medications such as pain pills
- Severe constipation
Fatigue is a condition of tiredness or weakness with a lack of energy. For the cancer patient, fatigue is caused partly because the body needs so much energy to work on healing itself. Additionally, chemotherapy and radiation place more stress on your body. Another contributor to fatigue is not getting enough sleep at night.
- Sleep more at night.
- Take naps during the day.
- Save your energy for the activities that are most important to you.
- Ask friends and family to help with daily routines such as household chores, shopping, child care and driving.
- Eat well, and eat often.
- Walk or exercise according to your health care provider’s recommendations.
- Allow yourself time to relax and do things you enjoy.
Insomnia is when a person has frequent trouble falling or staying asleep. Symptoms include trouble falling asleep, waking often in the night, waking early in the morning and being unable to fall back asleep, not feeling rested in the morning or feeling tired during the day, and restlessness, and anxiety as bedtime approaches.
Insomnia can be caused by a variety of things including: stress, depression, anxiety, too much caffeine, alcohol, some medicines as those used to treat heart problems and cancer, pain, shortness of breath, and other discomfort caused by an illness, and poor sleep habits.
What to do:
- Establish a regular sleep routine – a regular bedtime and wake-up time and stick to this schedule even on weekends.
- Avoid taking naps, especially after 3PM
- Exercise regularly (as recommended by your health care provider)
- Keep light levels very low after sunset and keep bedroom very dark
- Use the bed only for sleep and sex, not for reading or watching television
- Go to bed when you are drowsy and get up when you are wide awake
- Avoid caffeine, other stimulants, cigarettes and alcohol.
- Learn to use relaxation exercises.
- Meditate for 20 minutes before you go to bed.
- Read something light or entertaining just before you go to bed, to get your mind off the day’s troubles.
- Consider using “white noise”, such as a fan blowing
- Try not to focus on falling asleep, for example, by “clock watching.” If you are awake for more than 20 minutes, leave the bed and do not go back to bed until you are ready to sleep.
- Keep a “to do” journal. Before sleep, write down all the things you are worrying about. The write down what you can do tomorrow. Mark the other things “later in the week.” This will help clear your mind of worry.
- Counseling to help resolve psychological problems or reduce stress.
Loss of appetite is when you do not get the feeling that you want to eat. Many things can cause you to lose your appetite – the cancer itself, treatment, anxiety, and/or depression to name a few.
What to do:
- Try to eat small meals often and eat a variety of foods.
- If you have pain while chewing or swallowing, ask your healthcare provider and/or dietitian about recommending a powdered or liquid diet supplement.
- Milkshakes and pureed fruits often taste good when solid food does not. There are nutritional supplements that can be added to milkshakes to give you the vitamins and protein you need.
- Keep healthy snacks nearby for nibbling.
- If you can only eat small amounts, increase calories by adding butter, cream sauces or melted cheese to your recipes. You may also want to substitute milk or half and half when water is called for in recipes.
- Ask a nutritionist about diet guides.
- Use soft lighting, quiet music and colorful table settings to make eating a special event.
- If friend and family offer to cook for you, let them and do not be afraid to tell them what you like to eat.
A common problem for patients is pain. Pain may be mild, moderate, or severe and may last a short or long period of time. Pain can be caused by the cancer or by the treatment. Whatever the cause of your, it is important that you tell your doctor or nurse about it. They will do all they can to ease your pain and make you as comfortable as possible.
If you have cancer pain, there are some important things for you to know:
- For most patients, pain can be controlled.
- Pain is an individual experience which means only you can describe it. This makes talking with your doctor very important.
- It is important to take the pain medicine as you are told. If your medication is not working or if you have side effects, please contact your doctor.
- Writing down the pain medication you took and rating your pain level will help your care team control your pain.
Red, itching, peeling skin – happens after about 4 weeks of radiation treatment in the area that is being treated. You should report any skin problems to your nurse or doctor. Fatigue, difficulty swallowing and loss of appetite are sometime side effects from radiation therapy.
What to Expect:
Cancer and its treatment can have both direct and indirect effects on sexual functioning in both men and women.
- Certain kinds of cancer, like cervical, prostate, or colorectal cancer, may directly affect the genital organs.
- Treatments for these and many other types of cancer, like breast cancer, may cause changes in the body’s production of sexual hormones; these hormones have direct effects on the physiological and psychological aspects of sexual activity, both of which are necessary for optimal functioning.
- Additionally, treatments for cancer may cause fatigue, nausea, and pain, which can lessen sexual interest and performance.
- People with cancer can experience anxiety, depression, changes in how they see themselves, and changes in their overall family role; all of these can affect sexual activity.
- Finally, medicines that help with all of these – like opioid pain relievers, anti-nausea medicines, or some antidepressants – can affect sexual functioning.
Why is it important to pay attention to sexuality?
For many people, sexual functioning is an important part of quality of life. Sexual activity is a basic human process, and sexual problems can cause distress both for individuals and for their partners.
Sometimes people are embarrassed to discuss sexual issues with their treatment providers, or they grow resigned to having problems and don’t pursue treatment options. However, there are many ways for your treatment providers to help preserve or improve sexual function, and you should never be afraid to ask more questions or for help.