Tips for Helping Patients Manage Chemo Side Effects

Cancer patient with nurse
Implement these practical tips to alleviate chemo side effects so patients feel better during treatment.

Chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells, but the powerful drugs involved also kill healthy cells. This can cause a number of challenging side effects that affect the patient’s comfort and health. Depending on the person and the type of chemotherapy, side effects can be mild or severe.

Fortunately, there are several ways to manage chemo symptoms to help patients feel better as they continue their cancer fight.

What Are Some Common Chemo Side Effects?

  • Fatigue: One of the most common chemo side effects is fatigue. Most often, patients will feel the most tired on the days right after a treatment. Tiredness then tends to wane until the next round of chemo. To fight fatigue, rest is required. When a patient feels feel tired, they should take a break or try to take short naps throughout the day. While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise can also help with fatigue. Patients should go for a walk or do some light exercise if they are able to keep energy levels up.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Often, chemotherapy treatments can make patients feel nauseated or even lead to vomiting. The doctor will likely recommend an anti-nausea medication. Additionally, patients should try to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated. Eating small meals throughout the day and avoiding greasy foods can help as well.
  • Constipation: Constipation may arise as a side effect of medications used to treat pain and nausea. To combat constipation, patients should eat foods that are high in fiber, drink plenty of water, go for a walk or exercise, or take over-the counter medication to treat it.
  • Diarrhea: Some chemo treatments may cause loose bowel movements. Avoiding spicy or high-fat foods and caffeine can help. Patients can also take anti-diarrheal medications to prevent diarrhea. Following the BRATY diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, and yogurt) can help as well.
  • Neuropathy: Chemo can affect the nerves in a person’s hands and feet causing numbness or tingling. If this happens, the patient should consult with their doctor, as they may be able to give you a medication to help or adjust your dose of chemotherapy.
  • Hair loss: Chemo may kill off cells in the hair follicles causing hair to fall out. A cooling cap can be worn during chemo treatments to help lower the risk of hair loss, however it may still occur. If a patient is receiving a chemo treatment that causes hair loss, they may want to cut their hair short prior to treatments. They should also be sure to use gentle shampoos and apply sunscreen to the scalp to prevent sun damage. It’s also helpful to keep the head covered with a hat or scarf to avoid sun and wind exposure. And remember, hair loss is not forever. Hair will begin to grow back a few months after a patient’s final treatment.

How Can Home Health Care Help?

When a person is being treated for or recovering from cancer, home health services can offer specialized services in the comfort of home that help alleviate symptoms of chemotherapy. Patients First Home Care’s nurses and home health aides can provide a wide range of services for cancer patients, including:

  • Meal planning and preparation in accordance with nutritional needs
  • Pain management
  • Prescription pickups
  • Help with personal needs such as bathing, dressing, and hygiene
  • Administering medications
  • Mobility and transferring assistance
  • Monitoring for changes in condition
  • And more

When a patient is battling cancer and could benefit from professional care at home, contact us or give us a call at one of our four convenient locations to learn more about our top-rated home health care services in Southwest Florida: Sarasota/Charlotte at 941-226-8484; Bradenton at 941-667-9103; Fort Myers 239-441-2610; Naples at 239-366-1620.