Dealing with after-effects

FIGHT IT

Medicines apart, it is important for cancer survivors to follow certain natural remedies to deal with the side-effects of their treatment, advises Dr JB Sharma

Side effects from cancer treatment are common. There may be few reactions, depending upon the type of treatment one is receiving and their response towards it. However, there are a few things one can do to overcome them.

Nausea

Though medications are given to patients to avoid nausea and vomiting before chemotherapy, some patients may experience persistence of nausea. In these cases, behavioural treatments can help control nausea and vomiting. Methods like distraction, relaxation, and positive imagery can help change the expectation and fear of nausea and vomiting. Avoiding greasy, fried, salty or spicy food and taking a balanced and light diet also helps.

Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue is a sense of tiredness or exhaustion after people receive cancer treatment. Simple rest and "taking it easy" may be all that is necessary to overcome this feeling of tiredness. Stick to regular exercising combined with yoga and meditation. Eat healthy, conserve your energy through music therapy, and get sufficient amount of sleep.

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has become one among cancer therapies’ most prevalent side-effects. It can result from radiation therapy and platinum-based chemotherapy drugs such as carboplatin and cisplatin. In such cases, cochlear implants are the best way to remedy hearing loss.

Hair loss

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy cause hair loss by harming the cells that help hair grow. It can occur throughout the body, including the head, face, arms, legs, underarms, and pubic area. However, at times, hair starts growing immediately after the chemotherapy gets over. When it begins to regrow, take proper care by restricting hair wash to twice a week. Avoid using hair brush, heating elements, and hair colours for a year after the treatment.

Diarrhoea

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the pelvis may result in diarrhoea. Treating it early can help avoid dehydration or other problems. However, it is best to manage it at mild stages by avoiding caffeine, alcohol, dairy, fat, fibre and spicy foods. Patients must avoid laxatives and stool softeners used to prevent constipation. Eating small, frequent meals are necessary and patients should take foods that are easy for their stomach besides timely intake of post-chemo medicines.

Weight loss and gain

Although weight loss is quite common among people with cancer, weight gain is an important health issue for women with breast cancer because of steroid medications and hormone therapy. Patients must eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limit their fat and sugar intake.

Meanwhile, to control weight loss, it is necessary to increase the amount of food intake by about 450 calories per day. Avoid protein-rich foods before cancer treatment to help prevent aversions. Post cancer treatment, patients must drink plenty of water and opt for cardiovascular physical activities, meditation, yoga and strength building exercises if muscle mass has been lost.

(The writer is an oncologist)

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