Fighting Chemo Side Effects

Managing nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

Fighting Chemo Side Effects

By Breast Cancer Connect Staff Published at January 23 Views 7,972

An important and life-saving treatment for breast cancer, chemotherapy drugs destroy rapidly-dividing cancer cells. But they also kill rapidly-dividing healthy cells found throughout the body, including the blood, intestine, and hair.

In the wake of treatment, many people experience chemotherapy side effects, most commonly, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. These effects can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual.

Combating Nausea and Vomiting

According to Everyday Health, around 70 to 80 percent of patients on chemotherapy will endure nausea and vomiting. Some chemotherapy drugs cause harsher side effects than others. Of course, with those effects come loss of appetite and the potential for dehydration and constipation.

Breast cancer patients receiving chemo can take steps to help alleviate nausea and vomiting:

Take anti-nausea drugs (in pill or IV form): Available in pill form or administered intravenously, anti-nausea drugs prevent queasiness and vomiting. Physicians often provide them, alone or in combination, to patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Eat small meals: What you eat and how often can influence nausea symptoms. Guidelines from BreastCancer.org suggest eating smaller meals that are staggered throughout the day instead of having two or three large meals. Also, don't skip meals, and try having a light meal a few hours before treatment.
Try bland foods: Obviously, if certain foods upset your stomach more than others, such as greasy foods or foods with strong flavors, avoid them. Dry foods like crackers, toast and cereal are recommended, as well as rice, plain mashed potatoes and applesauce for combating nausea symptoms.
Ask someone else to do the cooking: Order take-out, or ask your spouse or a friend to help with the cooking so that you can avoid strong smells that might cause nausea.
Consider alternative remedies: Acupuncture, relaxation techniques and visualization can help reduce the nausea and stress that come with chemotherapy.

Fighting Fatigue

In addition to nausea, breast cancer treatment can bring on sudden and overwhelming fatigue. Studies show that fatigue is the most common side effect of treatment, affecting around 90 percent of patients. Unfortunately, this isn't the type of fatigue that rest can relieve, and it can last for many months after treatment ends.

While chemotherapy in and of itself can induce fatigue, other side effects of breast cancer and its treatment can also cause exhaustion. These include:

• Dehydration
• Infection
• Weight gain
• Anemia
• Nausea
• Sleeping problems

Alleviating fatigue can require a range solutions that you and your doctor will need to discuss. Medications can help, but a few changes in your schedule can also make a significant difference:

Plan for rest periods, either naps or relaxation time, in the midst of your day.
Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Dehydration can induce fatigue.
Delegate. Cooking, cleaning, and paying the bills— those tasks that not only take time but can induce stress and fatigue — should be handed off to other family members.
Try holistic medicine. Massage, meditation, tai chi, yoga and Reiki are known to reduce fatigue and help you relax, which encourages better sleep.

Experiment With Your Options

Coping with the side effects of breast cancer treatment is possible. Learn about your options, and experiment with solutions that help you feel like you are thriving again.

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