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Coping with Chemotherapy (part 2)

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What can be done about unpleasant side effects?
Every person reacts differently to chemo, and different drugs cause different side effects. How you react to the chemo has no relationship to whether or not it's helping you.

Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting can occur soon after treatment or days later, but anti-nausea medicines work well to relieve or prevent nausea and vomiting. It's usually best to eat a light meal before getting chemo. Most people feel fine for the first hours after a treatment and find this is a good time to eat.

Usually your doctor will give you anti-nausea medicine before chemo and then you take it on a regular schedule for at least a few days. Be sure to get and fill your prescriptions before your treatment. There are many good medicines available; know that you may have to try a few or maybe take more than one to relieve your symptoms.

It's very important to drink enough fluids during treatment, 8-10 (8oz.) glasses a day is usually recommended, and you may need more if you have fever or diarrhea. If you have nausea during or right after treatment let your doctor know. You may lose your appetite for a while after chemo so eat whatever appeals to you. If you find yourself burping or have a burning sensation in your chest or throat caused by reflux -- food backing up into your throat—tell you doctor so these symptoms can be treated.

If you have nausea, avoid big meals, fatty or fried food and strong food smells. Try to stay away from any smells that bother you. Prepare and freeze meals in advance. Eat your food warm rather than hot. Try to eat small meals 6-8 times a day instead of a few large ones. Eat and drink slowly and drink at least an hour before or after, instead of with, meals. Avoid fizzy drinks. Try flat ginger ale, non-acid juices, sports drinks and, of course, water. Juice popsicles and gelatin are other ways to get more fluids. Sucking on cracked ice or tart candies may help with a dry mouth. If you feel nauseous in the morning try keeping dry foods like cereal or crackers by the bed so that you can eat them before getting up. Rest in a chair after eating, but don't lie flat for at least two hours.

Call the doctor if you vomit more than 3 times an hour for 3 hours, cannot keep dwon food or liquids, become weak or dizy, or cannot take your medicines. Nausea and vomiting are not normal effects of canceer treatment and must be treated.

Bowel changes: Some chemo drugs can cause diarrhea or constipation. If you have 3 or 4 watery stools in 24 hours, blood in your stool, or you are constipated, call your doctor. Do not take any over-the counter drugs or make any diet changes until you idscuss the problems you are having with your doctor or nurse.

Infection: Chemo lowers your body's ability to fight infections. You are most susceptible to infections about 7-12 days after a chemo treatment. Wash your hands often and stay away from anyone who is ill. Wait to get your teeth cleaned or to have other dental work done. Do not get any vaccinations (shots) without checkiing first with your oncologist.  Keep a thermometer handy. Call your doctor right away, even if it's at night or on the weekend, if you have a temperature of 100.3 degrees or higher (taken by mouth) or chills, a cough, sore throat or pain or burning when you urinate. Don’t eat any foods containing raw eggs during treatment.

Mouth sores: Another side effect, mouth sores, can be painful and cause trouble swallowing. While you are getting chemo, it's very important to keep your mouth clean. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what you can do to help prevent mouth sores.You may want to rinse your mouth often with a solution of one teaspoon baking powder and one teaspoon salt, diluted in 8 oz. of lukewarm water. Don't use commercial mouthwashes containing alcohol. If mouth sores develop, continue rinsing your mouth often and gently brush your teeth with a soft bristle toothbrush after every meal. If you find it too painful to brush, ask your doctor or nurse what you may use. Also let them know if you have bleeding, white patches in your mouth, or are unable to eat, drink or take your medicines due to mouth pain.

Fatigue: Many people getting chemo feel tired--an extreme tiredness called fatigue. Be sure to get enough sleep during treatment. Rest is important, but staying in bed all day will not help. Try to balance rest periods with mild activity. Plan to do the things you have to do at the times when you have the most energy. Try to get some exercise, like walking and yoga, as well as sunshine and fresh air, every day. Let your doctor know if your fatigue keeps getting worse, if you have trouble sleeping at night, or if you cannot get out of bed for more than a 24-hour period. there are many causes pf cancer-related fatigue, and some need to be treated.

Keep a journal of your concerns and symptoms and take it with you to doctor visits. Discuss how you're feeling at home and get any prescriptions you may need. If you or a family member need to call the doctor in an urgent situation, be sure to tell the office or answering service what's going on. When calling after office hours, be ready to give your name, doctor's name, type of cancer, type of chemotherapy, date you last received treatment, the names of any other medicines you're taking and your pharmacy's phone number. Another doctor may be on duty and this information is important. Be sure to know what to do if emergencies come up on week-ends, holidays, or after normal office hours.

Emotional support
Try to bring a relative or close friend with you for treatments and meetings with your doctor. Record your conversation with your doctor and/or take notes; it's hard to process and remember what you talk about.

If you are a woman with breast cancer, your doctor or nurse can put you in touch with an American Cancer Society (ACS) Reach to Recovery volunteer who has had breast cancer Many women find it helpful to talk to someone who has "been there."

If you are concerned about your appearance, ask about a Look Good--Feel Better group in your area. This group offers support and encouragement, as well as free products and advice on applying make-up and headwear. Check with your hospital for support groups or call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for information on support groups in your area. For reliable information on cancer and to access the Society's online support group, the Cancer Survivor's Network, visit the American Cancer Society's website at www.cancer.org.

Para solicitar información en español, llame al 1-800-227-2345. Un especialista en información sobre el cáncer le asistirá en español.

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