Side-effects of Cancer Treatment and How to Cope With Them

Did you know that more than a million people have been diagnosed with some form of cancer?

When diagnosed, you have to start the treatment process immediately that includes radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. However, these treatments are so intrusive that they often leave behind terrible side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and pain. 

For patients, these side effects can ruin the quality of your life, making you feel uncomfortable and miserable. In some cases, the patients may even feel demotivated to carry on with these treatments, making it less effective than they could have been. 

That being said, here are some common side effects of cancer treatment and useful tips to cope with them, according to a Trusted Cancer Specialist in Mumbai

Side effects of cancer treatment 

  • Nausea: Chemotherapy will leave you feeling nauseated. Therefore, most patients will be administered anti-nausea drugs to help combat the problem. Experts recommend to eat fiber rich diet during cancer treatment to ease digestion and feel less nauseated. Avoid the consumption of salty and greasy food. 
  • Fatigue: This is a serious problem for more than 70% cancer patients. Radiation and chemotherapy can make you feel fatigued. Those with cancer, fatigue cannot be treated by simply resting it out as it can your daily life and its activities. However, a lot of this discomfort can be mitigated by maintaining a nutritious diet, exercising every day, and rest if they feel tired. It also helps patients to remember that fatigue is not making your cancer worse or that the treatment isn’t working. It is just a common reaction to the therapy that can be countered with a healthy lifestyle. 
  • Loss of hearing: Patients may experience irreversible and progressive hearing loss that can result due to radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs. The drugs damage the hair cells of the inner ear, affecting its ability to respond to the sound waves effectively. This is the reason, people undergoing platinum-based chemotherapy, especially children and adolescents, you should undergo regular audiometric follow up exams, long after the treatment has finished. You can also consider cochlear implants to remedy hearing loss. 
  • Hair loss: Chemotherapy aim to kill rapidly dividing cells in the body which means that it can destroy hair roots as well. Some patients not only lose the hair on their heads but also eyelashes, armpits, eyebrows, and even pubic hair. This usually happens about 1-3 weeks after the initial treatment. However, the good news is that the hair loss from chemotherapy is not permanent and that it will grow back within 10 months after the last treatment. Radiation therapy too leads to hair loss in the area where the treatment is administered. 
  • Loss of libido: Men with pelvic cancers may suffer from decreased sexual functions and desires. However, that side effect is not just limited to men but also women. According to National Cancer Institute, more than half of the women, diagnosed and treated for breast cancer or gynaecological cancer experience long term sexual dysfunction. As for the other cancer patients, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can both impact the nerve cells, blood vessels, and hormones that control sexual function. Pain, depression, and anxiety can also have a psychological impact on the patient’s sexual life. 

The best way to cope with lack of sexual drive during and after the treatment is to tell your partner honestly about the side effect of the treatment.

Additionally, if you are using Viagra or other such options to overcome erectile dysfunction, then you should always use condom as residue from chemotherapy may remain in the semen and affect partners. If you are facing any sexual difficulties, be open about it with your doctors. 

  • Diarrhoea: Certain cancer treatment drugs can cause diarrhoea. However, not all chemotherapy drugs do that. The researchers are yet to find a way to avoid this. But there are number of coping mechanisms that are available to help patients overcome this problem. For instance, you consume easy-to-digest foods such as rice, bananas, applesauce etc. Avoid consumption of raw foods and fruits that are high in fiber and make your diarrhoea worse.  Patients should also take adequate fluids to avoid dehydration. 
  • Skin and nail changes: You may also experience an unpleasant itchiness, in some cases the skin may become dry and red. It is advisable to use mild lotions and soaps that can sooth minor irritations. 

These are some common side effects of cancer treatment along with useful ways to overcome the discomfort.

Be open about your issues with your doctor who can help you with reliable ways to deal with the effects of your treatment. They may recommend some lifestyle changes and medication as well.