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Chemotherapy: How to Manage the Side Effects

Chemotherapy: How to Manage the Side Effects

Cancer is an aggressive disease. Its cells multiply in a short period of time. There are treatments that can cure or slow down the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy (known as chemo) is a frequent treatment for all types of cancer. It uses powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells throughout your body. Chemo also destroys some normal cells during the process. In some cases, the oncologist (a doctor who treats cancer) may use chemo and other drugs to wipe out cancer cells. Since chemo drugs are strong, side effects are common. Here are some general side effects of chemo and ways to manage them:


A study by the National Cancer Institute indicates that seventy percent of chemo patients have problems with fatigue. Chemo causes a reduction in red blood cells. This issue causes exhaustion. You have little energy to carry out activities. Also, your desire for food will decrease.

Managing Fatigue

There are ways to deal with fatigue so that you can perform some daily activities:

•Try to rest throughout the day
•Exercise as much as possible
•Eat nutritious food
•Let family and friends help with housework

Nausea and Vomiting

Two of the main side effects of chemo are nausea and vomiting. You may have a queasy stomach after your chemo treatment. Vomiting can occur along with a nauseous stomach.

Managing Nausea and Vomiting

You will need to take immediate action to reduce or eliminate nausea and vomiting:

•Eat small meals at least 3 times a day
•Avoid eating fried and spicy foods
•Drink beverages between meals
•Talk to your oncologist about anti-nausea medication


Chemo drugs can cause patients with certain types of cancer to have diarrhea. Diarrhea is loose, watery stool. You will have frequent bowel movements throughout the day.

Managing Diarrhea

These are ways to manage diarrhea:

•Avoid caffeine
•Drink 6 glasses of water per day
•Eat vegetables and fruits without skins or seeds
•Keep away from greasy and peppery foods

Hair Loss

Hair loss can occur while taking chemo drugs. Some patients lose all the hair on their body. This occurs when chemo drugs attack cells including hair roots. Hair loss is a temporary condition. Your hair will grow back after finalizing chemo treatments.

Managing Hair Loss

There are ways to manage hair loss while taking chemo treatments:

•Wash hair with mild shampoos
•Avoid excessive hair washes
•Decrease combing and brushing your hair
•Wear wigs, scarves, and hats in the sunlight

Skin Rashes

A reaction to chemo treatments may cause a skin rash or other irritation. Your skin will become dry and itchy. This condition will cause discoloration of the skin.

Managing Skin Rashes

You can manage skin rashes in several ways:

•Use a mild soap
•Apply fragrance-free lotion
•Avoid scratching the rash
•Wear loose-fitting clothing
•Avoid exposure to the sun

Chemotherapy is a necessary treatment. You may have side effects resulting from chemo. There are ways to manage these side effects. After finishing your chemo treatments, you will be back to your regular activities.

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