Managing the Side Effects of Chemo
Mouth sores: Some therapies irritate the lining of the mouth and throat, causing sores and making eating uncomfortable.
What you can do: Ask your doctor about ointments or artificial saliva. Brush gently, and use a medicated, non-alcohol mouthwash. Concentrate on soft foods, and drink plenty of fluids.
Nausea and vomiting: These issues can occur because your body is trying to rid itself of toxic drugs. Call your doctor if nausea becomes severe, liquids won’t stay down or vomiting lasts more than a day.
What you can do: Today’s anti-vomiting and antinausea drugs are highly effective. Ask if you can take them preventively. Smaller meals, liquids before (not with) food and avoiding strong smells can help, too. Breathing deeply can also reduce nausea.
Nerve damage: Certain drugs may damage nerves, leading to tingling or burning sensations or numbness and weakness in fingers or feet. This is usually temporary.
What you can do: Be sure to tell your doctor about your symptoms. You may need a different drug or a treatment break.
Neutropenia: Chemo can cause white blood cells to plummet to abnormally low levels, a condition called neutropenia. Since white blood cells fight off infections, it’s vital that they remain in the normal range so you can remain on your chemo schedule.
What you can do: Wash your hands often, stay away from sick people and avoid procedures, dental work and vaccinations—all of which can increase your risk. If you do notice any signs of infection, including fever, chills and aches, call your healthcare provider ASAP—infection while undergoing chemo is considered a medical emergency.