Undergoing treatment can be a very stressful process. Apart from the emotional turmoil one goes through, you also have to be physically strong to withstand treatment. Treatment options can be complicated at times and they may involve a combination of several treatment types to attack your particular type of cancer.
Tips to manage the treatment process
Here are some practical steps you can take to ensure your treatment process is a little less of a burden.
- Remember the treatment process can be complicated if multiple treatment options are chosen for you. If you are to undergo multiple treatment options then make sure you meet each doctor involved in your treatment e.g. for chemotherapy meet the medical oncologist, for radiation therapy meet the radiation oncologist and for surgery meet the surgical oncologist.
- Have a detailed conversation with each doctor and make sure your questions are answered and you are comfortable with the next steps before you proceed.
- Maintain a diary to keep track of you treatment process and schedule. List down all important dates and appointments. It also helps to maintain a record of what you experience after each treatment phase like side effects. The better you understand your body the better the doctors will be able to tailor the treatment for you.
Understanding Treatment Side Effects
It is important for you to understand the side effects of the treatment you undergo. Ask your doctor about the side effects of each treatment procedure so you know what to expect after the procedure is completed. Sometime the unknown or unexpected can add to your stress.
Chemotherapy side effects
Like all cancer treatment options, chemotherapy affects people in different ways. How you feel depends on how healthy you are before treatment, your type of cancer, how advanced it is, the kind of chemotherapy you are getting, and the dosage. Unfortunately, it's impossible to predict who will have what side effects.
Chemotherapy is designed to kill fast-growing cancer cells. But it can also affect healthy cells. Chemotherapy causes side effects when it harms healthy cells in the body. These side effects tend to go away after the chemotherapy ends. But this process can take time. Side effects could sometimes take months or even years to go away.
Chemotherapy could also sometimes cause long-term side effects that do not go away. These may include damage to the heart, lungs, nerves, kidneys, or reproductive organs. You must have a detailed discussion with your doctor before you decide to begin chemotherapy. It is important for you to understand what side effects you might face and how you can manage them.
Some of the common side effects from chemotherapy are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, mouth sores, and pain. While these are difficult to bear, there are ways to help manage these side effects.
To understand more about the side effects of chemotherapy and how to manage them, click here.
Radiation therapy side effects
Different people have different side effects with radiation. While one person might experience mild side effects, someone else might experience severe ones. The specific side effects you may have depend on the type of radiation being used, the dose of radiation, the area of the body that's being targeted, and the state of one’s health.
Radiation therapy treats cancer by using high energy to kill tumour cells. The goal is to kill or damage cancer cells without hurting too many healthy cells. Side effects occur when radiation therapy damages healthy skin cells in the treatment area. These side effects commonly include skin changes and fatigue. Skin changes may include dryness, itching, peeling, or blistering. You must take special care of your skin during radiation therapy.
Depending on the part of the body being treated, side effects might also include diarrhoea, hair loss in the treatment area, mouth problems, nausea and vomiting, sexual changes, swelling, trouble swallowing, urinary and bladder changes. Most of these side effects tend to go away within a couple of months after radiation therapy ends. Late side effects may first occur six or more months after radiation therapy is over. They vary by the part of your body that was treated and the dose of radiation you received.
Late side effects may include infertility, joint problems, mouth problems. Everyone is different, so talk to your doctor or nurse about whether you might have late side effects and what signs to look for before you begin therapy.
To understand more about the side effects of radiation therapy and how to manage them, click here.
Surgery side effects
Cancer surgery, like all cancer treatments, comes with benefits, risks, and side effects. The types and intensity of side effects depend on the type and location of the cancer, the type of surgery, and the individual’s health. If you and your doctor decide that surgery is to be a part of your cancer treatment, then please make sure you are given information about all aspects of your treatment before you consent to surgery, including the side effects you may experience.
With recent advances and less invasive surgical techniques, the side effects of surgery are often milder, and patients usually recover faster. In addition, doctors have made major strides in recent years in reducing pain and other physical side effects from all types of surgery.
To understand more about the side effects of surgery and how to manage them, click here.