Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are effective treatments for cancer, but they also come with side effects. Chemotherapy and radiation destroy cancer cells, along with normal, healthy cells in the process. These can include areas such as the cells of the protective lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which can irritate it and cause symptoms such as nausea.
Side effects associated with cancer treatments vary from person to person. Some people only experience them months or years after their treatment. Fortunately, there are medications available to relieve your symptoms, as well as precautions you can take to manage them.
Here are some common side effects of cancer treatments and what you can do to manage them.
Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are one of the most common side effects of high-dose chemotherapy and radiation treatments. They can last anywhere from a few hours to weeks after your treatment. Your doctor will usually prescribe anti-nausea medicine to help relieve your discomfort, but there are also a few steps you can take to deal with the symptoms.
Try to eat smaller, frequent meals during the day rather than 3 large meals, as nausea often gets worse if your stomach is empty. Drinking beverages in between your meals instead of during may also help. Additionally, try eating foods that are cold or at room temperature, as the smell of hot food can sometimes bring on nausea. If you’re vomiting, be sure to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid per day to prevent dehydration.
Mouth sores are common with chemotherapy. They can be painful and make it difficult to eat or drink. Your healthcare team will instruct you on how to keep your mouth clean to prevent the likelihood of an infection occurring.
In addition to following your mouth care instructions, you can also eliminate foods that may aggravate your sores. Avoid crunchy foods that may poke your gums and consider adopting a soft diet instead. Also, avoid eating acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits. If eating is too difficult, nutritional drinks may be beneficial to ensure that you’re getting enough essential nutrients daily.
Change in your sense of taste
Many patients find that their sense of taste is different after treatment. It’s common to have a metallic taste in your mouth. Although this sensation is temporary, it can affect your daily life tremendously. Thankfully, there are a few tips that may help.
Eating sour fruits (such as kumquats, oranges or pomelo) or fruit-flavoured sour candy may help to decrease the metallic taste in your mouth. Adding strong flavours and seasoning also helps to improve the flavour of your food. If your favourite food tastes different, avoid eating it so that you don’t end up disliking it.
Intensive cancer treatments can make you feel tired and low on energy. For some people, fatigue may last for up to a year after treatment, so you may need to make changes to your lifestyle to cope and recover.
Give yourself time to rest during the day. Balancing your time to allow yourself to take naps if you need to can be beneficial for dealing with fatigue. Low-intensity exercise is also an excellent way for you to regain your strength and stamina after treatment. A short walk every day may boost your energy.
While cancer treatment provides you with an opportunity to be cured and regain your health, it can definitely take a toll on your physical and mental health when you’re going through it. That’s why it’s important to have a proper cancer management plan to overlook your treatment and the side effects that come with it.
Visit our cancer management centre in Singapore if you have any concerns about your risk of cancer and learn more about cancer diagnosis and treatment.