A Guide From An Oncologist In Singapore On Coping With Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy Side Effects
For quite some time, cancer has been dubbed as the “dreaded disease”. Today, there is much good news about cancer to ease your worries and give you hope.
Diagnosis is more accurate. The efficacy of cancer treatments has improved. You can rely on a care team to help you through your long-term journey with cancer treatment.
Depending on your cancer type and stage, your care team may consist of an oncologist, a specialist surgeon, pathologists, radiologists, nurses and social workers.
According to the Singapore Cancer Society, 33 Singaporeans are diagnosed with cancer every day. If you or your family member has cancer, perhaps some of the questions you would ask are:
- Can I recover from cancer?
- What are the cancer treatments available?
- Are there side effects to the treatment?
- How can I cope with these side effects?
Your oncologist will furnish you with information that will clear your doubts and fears about cancer treatment.
Below is a discussion on common cancer treatments, and a quick guide on coping with the treatments’ side effects. We hope that this information will ease your worry and will make your journey towards cancer treatment a better experience.
3 Common Cancer Treatments
After giving you an honest diagnosis, the next thing your oncologist will discuss is the best treatment path for your cancer type and stage.
There are three general treatment options for cancer, namely: surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Surgery: If the tumour can be removed, your oncologist in Singapore will recommend surgery. Sometimes, only a portion of the tumour can be removed. In this case, your oncologist in Singapore will combine surgery with either radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Radiation Therapy. Your oncologist would recommend radiation therapy to help shrink the tumour. The treatmentuses high energy radiation like X-rays which are introduced externally (like taking X-rays) or internally, by means of introducing a radioactive material into your bloodstream. Your oncologist would recommend radiotherapy treatment either before or after surgery.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with the use of drugs. These drugs destroy the abnormal cells before they can multiply and harm other healthy cells.
Inevitably, some healthy cells get killed or harmed during a chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatment. This results in side effects which can either be permanent or temporary.
Coping With Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy Side Effects
Some of the known side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy are listed below, along with some suggestions on how to cope.
Diarrhea is common during treatment. As your oncologist would mention, some patients become temporarily “lactose intolerant” after chemotherapy.
The following are some recommendations to cope with diarrhea:
- Cut your intake of milk and other dairy products in the meantime.
- Drink water in between meals instead of during meals.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks
- Avoid vegetables that may give you gas, such as cabbage, broccoli, corn and peas. Eat fruits that are canned, peeled or cooked.
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods.
- Small, frequents meals are recommended over large portions.
- If you notice that your rectal area is starting to sore because of the frequent loose bowel movements, sit over a warm water to soothe it.
Changes In Sense of Taste
Some patients would complain that they have lost their sense of taste, or that there is a metallic taste in their food. Your oncologist will assure you that your sense of taste will normalize over time.
In the meantime, you might find chilled foods more to your liking. Also, try increasing the aroma of your food.
Vomiting and Nausea
To reduce vomiting and nausea episodes, your oncologist will advise you to eat small frequent meals and try some relaxation methods. It is recommended to drink 6-8 glasses of fluids a day to safeguard against dehydration from vomiting and to gargle with baking soda solution to cleanse your mouth.
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss. Your oncologist will help you cope with your anxiety over hair fall. Avoid frequent shampooing and brushing and protect your head with a hat or other head covering.
Other related side effects include dry mouth, insomnia, loss of appetite and fatigue.
Remember, you can have a better experience amidst your battle with cancer with the help from your oncologist and the rest of your care team. See an oncologist in Singapore at The Harley Street Heart and Cancer Centre today to help you in your battle with cancer.