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Managing the Side Effects of Treatment

Fatigue
Having cancer and undergoing treatment are hard work! Be flexible with your schedule - make your focus what you can do instead of what you can't do.

  • plan important events during the time of day you have the most energy
  • try to avoid activities that you don't enjoy, or that others could do for you
  • set one small, attainable goal at a time so that you can complete things
  • eat frequent, small meals that are loaded with calories to keep energy up
  • drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated

Immunity
Your immune system is always working, monitoring your entire body for the presence of illness-causing bacteria and viruses. Help your immune system work efficiently:

  • wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom
  • don't share your food or taste from others' plates
  • don't exhaust yourself; exercise should feel good

Relaxation helps your immune system:

  • yoga, meditation and relaxation exercises all help your body and mind heal
  • imagery and visualization can influence sensations of well-being

Be careful when combining remedies such as Echinacea or antioxidants with treatment. You need to stop them two days before and two days after chemotherapy and during the entire course of radiation to prevent the possibility of interfering with your treatment until more is known.

Nutrition
This can be more complicated now that you have cancer. Always try to eat well, and remember that quality plus calories is important.

  • seek the assistance of an experienced cancer nutritionist; different cancers and treatment may need different approaches
  • try to eat foods you like
  • foods that are room temperature have less odor if that is a problem
  • fruity marinades and sauces make meats easier to eat
  • certain foods and medications cannot be combined; ask your pharmacist and clinicians for advice and information

Pain
Cancer pain is what you say it is. Don't suffer; get help.

  • opioid pain relievers are appropriate for cancer pain
  • opioids taken for cancer pain are generally well-tolerated, and tolerance to the dose is not addiction
  • side effects can include dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness and queasiness
  • drowsiness and queasiness generally go away after a few days
  • dry mouth and constipation should be prevented by the use of oral moisturizers and laxatives; ask your clinician for recommendations before you start