What it is
Loss of Hair
Loss of Strength
Shortness of Breath
Unlike surgery and radiation, which target a specific part of the body, chemo is a systemic, or body-wide, therapy. You'll probably receive a cocktail of two or more chemo drugs'usually by infusion (i.e., intravenously), but sometimes orally or by injection'that will travel through your entire system to seek and attack cancer cells. Depending on the chemo drugs you're using and the type and stage of your cancer, you might receive chemo once a day, once a week, once every 10 days or even once a month. Your oncologist will weigh those factors to determine your schedule.
What a session is like
If you're receiving your chemo by infusion, a session can last anywhere from a few hours to most of the day. You can read,
listen to music or watch movies. And sometimes you can chat with others in the chemo suite'it's a great way to find support and make new friends. Ask your oncologist or nurse navigator if a port is right for you. The small device, which is surgically implanted under the skin, gives the chemo nurse easy access to your veins.
Coping with the effects
Today's chemo is kinder and gentler. In fact, many people say they feel fine'they can take care of things at home, exercise, spend fun time with family and friends, and even work. However, if you do experience side effects, tell your doctor. Most can be managed effectively.
If you experience'
" Nausea: Ask your oncologist to prescribe an antinausea medication. But don't wait for stomach upset to strike before you take it'that will make it less effective. Others find it helps to eat your biggest meal of the day when your appetite is strongest, then eat small, frequent snacks the rest of the day. Reach for high-protein, nutrient-dense choices such as peanut butter crackers, cheese and milk shakes. If side effects interfere with your digestion and appetite, ask your healthcare team to refer you to a cancer nutritionist who can help you stay nourished.
" Fatigue: Take naps when you can, and ease up on activity before you become exhausted. You need your strength so you can keep to the chemo schedule your doctor has determined. (Skipping treatments allows cancer cells to regrow, so your chances of remission may drop.) If you have extreme fatigue, talk to your doctor.
" Hair loss: Many chemo medications cause hair to fall out or thin. Some people cut their hair short or shave it off before it starts falling out'and feel empowered. You may prefer a wig, cap or scarf. Fortunately, when treatment is over, your hair will grow back. It may be curly at first, but it will return to your normal texture soon.
" Infection: Let your doctor know'
immediately!'if you experience fever, chills, weakness, shortness of breath or any other signs of infection. Not only can infection stall your chemo, it can be life-threatening! To learn more about infection and determine if you have a greater risk of developing one, read pages 14 and 15.
Working around chemo
Despite the side effects, you should be able to stay on the job during chemo. In fact, some people really want to work so they can maintain a sense of normalcy. If you feel particularly tired a day or two after chemo sessions, try scheduling treatments on Friday or arrange to take days off. And if you work for a public agency, school or company with more than 50 employees, rest assured'your job is protected by the Family Medical Leave Act, which guarantees you 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
When chemo ends
Within a few weeks after your last treatment, nausea and appetite problems will ease and your hair will begin to regrow. But it could take a bit longer to shake the last remnants of fatigue and pain. Exercise and
yoga can help with that. If you continue to have muscle pain or tingling in your fingers and toes,
talk to your oncologist.
What about a clinical trial?
Clinical trials are studies that help doctors test the safety and effectiveness of new drugs or combinations of drugs. The goal of most trials is to yield improvements in survival, side effects and convenience over current standard treatments. Before you enroll in a clinical trial, discuss it carefully with your oncologist. Learn more at cancer.gov/clinicaltrials.
Copyright © 2014 HeathMonitor. All Right Reserved.