Chemotherapy is one of the most common cancer treatments, and many people are aware of its common side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, swelling and digestive problems. It is important to be proactive about keeping your body (and mind) strong during treatment, even if you do not experience side effects.
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- Boost your nutrition. Eating a healthy diet helps you deal with side effects and fight infections. If you experience nausea, lack of appetite, or other eating problems, discuss solutions with your doctor or nurse navigator.
- Stay well hydrated. Chemo can be dehydrating. Drinking plenty of water before and after treatment helps your body process chemo drugs and flush the excess out of your system.
- Tackle physical changes. If your hair starts falling out, go shopping for a wig with a friend or buy a few stylish hats to keep your head warm. Minimize mouth sores by brushing after every meal and rinsing your mouth several times a day—but avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol, as these may be irritating. Soothe dry skin with body lotion and lip balm.
- Avoid germs. Because chemo affects normal cells as well as abnormal ones, your immune system becomes weakened. Steer clear of bacteria and viruses by washing hands frequently and keeping them away from your face. Also, stay out of crowds and only consume well-washed fresh foods and fully cooked meats.
- Keep exercising. Physical activity— even as little as three 10-minute walks a day—can improve your appetite and perspective. Ask your doctor what’s safe for you.
- Get your R&R. On the days after treatment, enjoy restful, relaxing activities while your body recovers. To combat fatigue, get seven or eight hours of sleep each night and maintain consistent sleep-wake times.
If you have questions about how to stay healthy during treatment, call askSARAH, a dedicated phone line where nurses answer your cancer questions, provided by Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare.