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10 Tips for Staying Healthy During Chemotherapy

From the GYN Cancer Articles List

What are some tips for staying well during chemotherapy?What are some tips for staying well during chemotherapy?


While undergoing chemotherapy for gynecologic cancer, you can be especially vulnerable to sickness and infection. During treatment, your immune system will not be as strong, so it is important that you do all you can to avoid sickness and stay as healthy as possible. As many germs and illnesses can be passed from person to person or through the air, you may need to avoid certain crowds and situations to minimize your contact with germs and sickness. Your doctor and chemotherapy team may also provide you with some do's and don'ts you can follow during your treatment.

In addition, here are 10 tips you can follow which can help you be proactive with your health during chemotherapy.

1. Stay hydrated.

It is important that you drink plenty of fluids before and during chemotherapy. You can easily become dehydrated because of the accompanying nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. During chemotherapy, try to drink extra water each day, but you may also want to choose juices, shakes, and other fluids with nutrition and calories. Adding lemon or trying flavored water could help with any metallic taste in your mouth caused by certain chemotherapy drugs.

2. Get creative with nutrition.

Between nausea, a lack of appetite, metallic taste in your mouth, and more, it can be difficult to be able to eat during chemotherapy treatment. Rather than focus on three square meals a day, plan to eat what you can, when you can. You may also find you can supplement your diet by drinking nutritious fluids. Instead of fewer, larger meals, you may find several small meals throughout the day are more tolerable. Sometimes new foods may taste better than what you normally eat. You should try to keep your diet as healthy as possible, but try not to stress if you aren’t able to eat much. Take in what nutrition you can, when you can, and keep a food diary to help you and your medical team keep track of which foods work for you and which don’t.

3. Wash hands frequently.

Frequent hand washing with soap can be essential for helping keep germs away. Besides normal hand washing--such as before eating, after using the restroom, when sneezing/coughing, and after touching pets--it’s also important for you and others to wash hands before and after touching any port, catheter, or access device you may have. You also need to be extra careful about washing your hands after you have touched public objects like door knobs, restaurant menus, and shopping cart handles. Hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available can also be helpful, so keep some with you.

4. Ask before taking supplements.

Some supplements, including vitamins, herbs, and minerals, can interfere with your chemotherapy treatments. Before taking any supplements or medications, talk to your medical team to be sure they will not negatively impact the effectiveness of your chemotherapy treatment.

5. Avoid alcohol.

Alcohol during chemotherapy is best avoided. Alcohol puts stress on the liver which can then make it harder for your liver to process your chemotherapy drugs. In addition, alcohol can interfere with some medications given with chemotherapy. It could also worsen any dehydration and nausea issues, making you sicker during your treatments.

6. Get as much rest as you can.

Because sleep is important for your health, you need to be able to rest during your chemotherapy treatments. You may find you feel extra fatigued and exhausted while undergoing chemotherapy, yet you may also experience insomnia. Sleeping too much during the day may make it more difficult to sleep at night, so try napping earlier in the day. Pain and anxiety can affect your ability to rest well, so work with your medical team to manage both effectively. Engaging in relaxing activities, avoiding caffeine, and keeping your bedroom dark are also some steps you can take to help you rest better. You can also plan your day so you maximize activities during the times you feel less tired. When you need to rest, turn off your phone, the TV, and other distractions. You may also need to talk to your doctor about when to take various medications which may disturb your sleep. If necessary, you can also ask about using a sleep aid.

7. Engage in gentle exercises.

During chemotherapy treatment is not the time for an intense exercise regime, but some gentle exercises or short walks can help with sleeping, energy, and moods. Talk to your doctor about which physical activities are right for you and how much of them you should do each day. You do not want to overdo it, but remaining active can help with overall health.

8. Be mindful of the sun.

Some chemotherapy can make you more vulnerable to sun, so use caution when outdoors. Covering up, wearing a large brimmed hat, and using sunscreen are important. You should also protect your lips with lip balm that includes SPF protection.

9. Remember your mouth.

During chemotherapy, you can develop a wide variety of mouth issues, including sores, gum issues, dry mouth, and more. To keep your mouth healthy, use a soft toothbrush and rinse with a mouthwash recommended by your medical team. Ask before flossing and avoid toothpicks, tobacco, and foods like acidic and crunchy ones that irritate the mouth. You’ll also want to keep your lips moist with lip balm. If you develop sores, talk to your medical team immediately.

10. Protect your skin.

Chemotherapy can make skin drier and irritated which could cause openings for germs to enter. To help decrease your risk of certain infections, you will want to try to protect your skin during your treatments. When bathing, use warm water with a mild soap and make sure all of your skin is clean, especially areas where you may sweat more. Use a soft, dry towel to pat dry rather than rub your skin. Wait to have a pedicure or manicure, and avoid biting your nails and cuticles. Wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your hands and skin when engaging in activities, such as gardening, where you could be scratched or cut. You should also avoid hot tubs, sharing towels, and shaving with razor blades.

Your medical team is a critical source of information during chemotherapy treatment. They can help you know what you need to do to be as healthy as possible while managing your symptoms. Don’t hesitate to ask then any questions you have and ask for suggestions to help you through your treatments.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

05-27-2015 - 01:49 PM


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