How To Recognize A Cancer Emergency
Your doctor and the chemotherapy nurse will let you know what situations would be considered an emergency. But if you have any of the following warning signs, tell your doctor immediately:
- A temperature greater than 100.4 F.
- Any fever and chills. If you can’t reach your doctor, go to the emergency room.
My Ac Chemotherapy Side Effects
I havent lost any head hair yet but friends have told me to expect some shedding at least from now on. Well see how that goes. I have lost a little bit of body hair and when I plucked my eyebrows a bit yesterday, I noticed immediately that they come away straight away. It isnt even a pluck to be honest, they just come away. Noooo eyebrows dont leave meeeeeeeeeee. Im sorry I called you caterpillars, I like caterpillars!
Since I had my hair cut, and possibly since the cold cap, my head feels like its in a vice. Its that feeling like when you have your hair tied up too tight and you just want to take it down to get some relief but I cant take it down because theres none there! Even when I touch my scalp, its numb. Its just weird. Maybe it means its coming out soon. Im only washing it 1-2 times per week with baby shampoo and barely touching it otherwise. It looks crap most days but thats ok, I see other people walking around with crap hair too ha ha!
Psychological And Emotional Toll
Living with cancer and dealing with chemotherapy can take an emotional toll. You may feel fearful, stressed, or anxious about your appearance and health. Depression is a common feeling as well, as people juggle work, family, and financial responsibilities on top of cancer treatment.
Complementary therapies like massage and meditation can be a helpful solution for relaxation and relief. Talk with your doctor if you have trouble coping. They may be able to suggest a local cancer support group where you can speak with others undergoing cancer treatment. If feelings of depression persist, look for professional counseling or ask your doctors about medication. While emotional side effects are common, there are also ways to reduce them.
No matter what side effects chemo causes, its possible to take steps to increase your quality of life during treatment.
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Getting Started With Chemotherapy
Once you’re in the infusion suite, the nurse will order your chemotherapy cocktail and any pre-medications that are required from the pharmacy. It usually takes at least 30 minutes for the drugs to arrive. Some of the pre-medications may be steroids, anti-nausea medications and/or anxiety medications. Each doctor will send an order to the infusion room telling them what chemotherapy and pre-medications to administer. In the meantime, your nurse will access your “Power Port” or “Port a Cath,” if you have one, or will just start an IV in your arm.Your nurse will begin with a saline solution through your IV. As soon as the medications are delivered, your nurse will hang the bags of medication on the IV stand and then start the different IVs. You’ll be given pre-medications first, then the chemotherapy.
Nausea Vomiting And Taste Changes
You may experience nausea and vomiting after your last chemotherapy treatment. It should go away in 2 to 3 weeks.
Your appetite may continue to be affected due to taste changes you may have experienced during your treatment. Your taste should go back to normal 1 to 2 months after chemotherapy. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help with these changes. Talk with your nurse if youd like more information.
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Practical Hints For Fatigue
- Plan your activities, such as grocery shopping, for a time when you feel the best.
- If you have children, rest when they are napping. When you feel most tired, consider hiring a babysitter for a few hours so that you can relax or take a nap.
- Take naps early in the day so you do not disturb your sleep pattern at night.
- Consider exercising every day or several times a week. Good forms of exercise include swimming, walking and yoga. Contact the Patient and Family Cancer Support Center for information on free exercise classes.
Longer Term Side Effects
Tiredness is commonly reported during treatment. This may be a direct effect of the drugs or may be due to other factors such as disrupted sleep patterns.
- Try to get adequate rest but also try to exercise regularly. Go for a walk outside each day as this can actually give you more energy.
- Find something that you actually enjoy doing and also try to incorporate exercise into your usual day, e.g. walk upstairs rather than taking the lift, park further away from where you want to go and walk the extra distance. Build this up gradually.
- Your GP, practice nurse or a physiotherapist can work with you to devise a specific exercise plan for you.
- Let others help when your energy levels are low.
If your fatigue doesn’t allow you to exercise, discuss this with your GP.
Usually energy levels recover after treatment finishes but this commonly takes time. In some cases full recovery may take 12 months or more.
Some people notice they are having concentration and short-term memory problems following their chemotherapy. This is often referred to as chemo brain. The severity and duration of symptoms differ from person to person. For some people the symptoms are very mild and resolve soon after treatment stops, but others may find their daily life is noticeably affected for a much longer period, restricting their ability to return to work in their pre-treatment capacity.
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Menstrual Changes And Fertility Issues
For younger women, changes in menstrual periods are a common side effect of chemo. Premature menopause and infertility may occur and may be permanent. Some chemo drugs are more likely to cause this than others. The older a woman is when she gets chemotherapy, the more likely it is that she will go through menopause or become infertile as a result. When this happens, there is an increased risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. There are medicines that can treat or help prevent bone loss.
Even if your periods have stopped while you are on chemo, you may still be able to get pregnant. Getting pregnant while on chemo could lead to birth defects and interfere with treatment. If you are pre-menopausal before treatment and are sexually active, its important to discuss using birth control with your doctor. It is not a good idea for women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer to take hormonal birth control , so its important to talk with both your oncologist and your gynecologist about what options would be best in your case. Women who have finished treatment can safely go on to have children, but it’s not safe to get pregnant while on treatment.
If you think you might want to have children after being treated for breast cancer, talk with your doctorbeforeyou start treatment. Learn more from our section on fertility concerns for women with cancer.
Which Chemotherapy Side Effects Might I Get
Your cancer doctor and specialist nurse will explain the side effects that your chemotherapy is likely to cause. The main areas of your body that may be affected by chemotherapy are areas where new cells are being quickly made and replaced. This includes the:
- bone marrow
- hair follicles
- digestive system
- lining of your mouth.
You may get some of the side effects mentioned below, but you are very unlikely to get all of them.
If you know the name of the drug you are looking for, you can use our list of chemotherapy drugs to find it. We have more information about:
- what the treatment is
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Practical Hints For Menopausal Symptoms
- If you have breast cancer, we DON’T recommend hormone replacement therapy.
- Eat soy products or take vitamin E to reduce hot flashes.
- Your doctor may recommend prescription medications for hot flashes.
- Wear light cotton pajamas to help prevent overheating when sleeping.
- Use vaginal moisturizers on a regular basis or other water-based lubricants as needed, especially during and before sexual activity. These products will help with vaginal dryness and irritation.
- Try an opened vitamin E capsule or olive oil spread on the vagina to increase lubrication.
- There are prescription medications that give a local dose of estrogen to the tissues in the vagina to treat vaginal dryness.
Feeling Unwell Or Tired
Many women do not feel as healthy after chemo as they did before. There is often a residual feeling of body pain or achiness and a mild loss of physical functioning. These changes may be very subtle and happen slowly over time.
Fatigue is another common problem for women who have received chemo. This may last a few months up to several years. It can often be helped, so its important to let your doctor or nurse know about it. Exercise, naps, and conserving energy may be recommended. If you have sleep problems, they can be treated. Sometimes fatigue can be a sign of depression, which may be helped by counseling and/or medicines.
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Who Is On My Chemotherapy Team
A highly trained medical team will work together to give you the best possible care. Your team may include these health care professionals:
Medical oncologist. This type of doctor specializes in treating cancer with medication. Your medical oncologist works closely with other team members to create your overall cancer treatment plan. They also lead your chemotherapy treatments.
Advanced providers, like oncology nurse practitioners and oncology physician assistants . These providers meet with patients and collaborate with a supervising medical oncologist. Their responsibilities can include:
Giving physical examinations
Ordering and interpreting laboratory and diagnostic test results
Prescribing and administering medications and other therapies, including chemotherapy
Providing education and counseling for patients and families
Oncology nurse. An oncology nurse specializes in cancer care. This includes giving chemotherapy. Oncology nurses can also:
Answer questions about treatment
Monitor your health during treatment
Help you manage side effects of treatment
Other health care professionals. Other team members may help care for your physical, emotional, and social needs during chemotherapy. These professionals include:
Learn more about the oncology team.
Planning For Your Chemotherapy Treatments
Preparing for side effects. Depending on the most typical side effects of your chemotherapy, your doctor may advise preparing for nausea and vomiting, hair loss, reproductive problems, and opposite effects.
An important part of cancer care is relieving side effects. This is called palliative care, or encouraging care. It is essential to talk with your health care team about the specific side effects you experience and the best methods to handle and treat them. Discover more about the side effects of chemotherapy.
Getting assist with financial resources and work. Prior to chemotherapy starts, you may want to:
Contact companies that can provide monetary assistance. This might be important if your insurance does not cover the whole cost of treatment
Talk with your employer to arrange time off work for treatment and recovery.
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Adjuvant And Neoadjuvant Drugs
Although drug combinations are often used to treat early breast cancer, advanced breast cancer more often is treated with single chemo drugs. Still, some combinations, such as paclitaxel plus gemcitabine, are commonly used to treat advanced breast cancer.
For cancers that are HER2-positive, one or more drugs that target HER2 may be used with chemo.
Chemotherapyis It Really That Badyour Experiences Please
Ok. Having read a few topics recently i’ve noticed that a lot of people seem very frightened of chemotherapy.
Rightly so too….like anything unknown it can be scary.
Maybe some of us who’ve had the experience can help by posting our type of chemo..and telling what it was like,
Do you think this is a good idea?? can you help??
I had 6 cycles of CNOP for treatment of anaplastic large cell lymphoma
They were 3 weeks apart.
On the whole it was not too bad.
one of the drugs did make me feel very ‘heavy headed’ for a few days after getting it.
another drug in the combination had the effect of making some of my nerve endings play up
The whole regime wasn’t overly awful. I didnt lose my hair and the chemo slowed down the regrowth rate of hair/nails etc.
The Chemo was followed for the next 5 days with a course of tablets/steroids etc which were ok…but taking a total of 37 tablets was a bit of a chore
All in all…looking back it wasn’t as bad as i expected…i was frightened of having the drugs before i started, but once into the swing of things it was ok.
Hard at the time…but do-able all the same. and so far it’s worked.
What a really useful thread!
Come on others!
My mum has just had her second dose yesterday so on week two. She was full of bravdo telling me she didn’t want me around, wouldn’t get any side effects, lose her hair etc.
What a good idea Imabloke. Here’s mine.
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Who Is On My Radiation Therapy Team
A highly trained medical team will work together to provide you with the best possible care. This team may include the following health care professionals:
Radiation oncologist. This type of doctor specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer. A radiation oncologist oversees radiation therapy treatments. They work closely with other team members to develop the treatment plan.
Radiation oncology nurse. This nurse specializes in caring for people receiving radiation therapy. A radiation oncology nurse plays many roles, including:
Answering questions about treatments
Monitoring your health during treatment
Helping you manage side effects of treatment
Medical radiation physicist. This professional helps design treatment plans. They are experts at using radiation equipment.
Dosimetrist. The dosimetrist helps your radiation oncologist calculate the right dose of radiation.
Radiation therapist or radiation therapy technologist. This professional operates the treatment machines and gives people their scheduled treatments.
Other health care professionals. Additional team members may help care for physical, emotional, and social needs during radiation therapy. These professionals include:
Learn more about the oncology team.
Effects On The Heart Or Lungs
Some chemotherapy drugs can increase the risk of heart or lung problems later in life. Your doctor can give you more information about this. There are things you can do to help improve your general health.
We have helpful tips on looking after your heart and how late effects can be monitored and managed.
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Chemobrain And Other After
You watched the last dose of chemotherapy drip from the IV into your veins six months ago. Your hair has really started to grow back. Maybe it’s curly where it once was straight, or a lot grayer than before, but it’s hair. You have eyebrows again. So why are you still so tired? When are you going to feel like you again?
“Your body has just been through an enormous assault, and recovery is a huge thing. You’re not going to just bounce back right away,” says oncologist Marisa Weiss, MD, founder of Breastcancer.org and the author of Living Beyond Breast Cancer. “You’ve been hit while you’re down so many times: with surgery and anesthesia, perhaps with multiple cycles of chemotherapy, perhaps with radiation.”
Two of the biggest hurdles women with breast cancer face post-treatment are fatigue resulting from chemotherapy and/or the accumulated effects of other treatments, and a phenomenon some women have dubbed “chemobrain” — mental changes such as memory deficits and the inability to focus. If you tried, you probably couldn’t pick two more frustrating and troubling side effects for women handling busy lives, managing careers, and caring for families.
“You expect them to go away as soon as treatment ends, and they don’t,” says Mary McCabe, RN, director of the Cancer Survivorship program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Re: What To Expect At The First Oncologist Appointment
Be ready for more leaflets, more appointments, consent firms and hopefully not too long to wait. Like you I was her2+ so replaced plans for surgery. I had oncologist appointment on Monday and first chemo the following week on Thursday but had to fit in blood tests, CT scan heart scan and appointment with chemo nurse first.
oncologist set out treatment plan and explained drugs etc. measured height & weight . Appointment lasted about 20 mins. Asked me to sign consent form. Follow up appointment with chemo nurse went through a lot more of the practical details of what would happen on the day, how they would support me, what to bring etc and how the treatments in the cycle would differ. Also gave me the chance to ask the questions I had forgotten to ask the oncologist.
Will probably ask you about cold cap if available to you as need to know to plan your appointment for treatment as you will need to stay for longer on the day. I didn’t have to make firm decision immediately and could confirm with chemo nurse call.
I was also told to shield because of covid once treatment starts so just be aware you might need to – ask your oncologist – so if there is anyone you really want to see or do get in quick before treatment but stay well.
If you haven’t already had one try to get a flu jab from your GP before your treatment starts.
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