Coping with the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Cancer is an illness which requires extensive treatment that involves rigorous treatment regimes such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy etc. These treatments have extremely powerful and severe side-effects on the patient’s body leading to many physical as well as psychological problems. It is important that a cancer patient receives maximum support and care from loved ones in order to cope with the side-effects.

Some of the common after effects of cancer treatment are discussed below along with ways to cope with them.

  • Loss of Hearing: Due to radiation therapy and even platinum based chemotherapy medicines, patients can suffer from irreversible hearing loss. This is because the drugs cause the inner ear hair cells to get damaged due to which the ear becomes less responsive to sound waves. According to a German study conducted in 2010, patients who were diagnosed with cancer at a younger age suffered higher loss of hearing as they may have consumed larger doses of platinum drugs over the course of their illness. Serious cases can opt for cochlear implants.
  • Nausea: This is one of the most common after effects of chemotherapy. Nausea and vomiting is induced after a session of chemotherapy. Patients are usually given anti- nausea drugs to overcome this problem, Patients are also advised to keep a positive outlook to reduce the occurrence of nausea and vomiting and also avoid greasy, fried and spicy food.
  • Fatigue: According to the National Cancer Institute, 70% of cancer patients experience fatigue during the course of treatment. Chemotherapy as well as radiation therapy has this effect on the body, however it maybe even caused due to the anemia. Usually such kind of fatigue is not treated by rest alone; patients should have a proper and healthy diet combined with daily exercises. In the opinion of many researchers, antidepressants which are known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help to alleviate fatigue.
  • Hair Loss: A major side effect of chemotherapy is the loss of hair as it kills all rapidly dividing cells, hair cells being one of them. In many cases, patients may not just lose their skull hair, but also eyebrow and eyelashes. This usually begins after the first week of the chemo treatment. However, it is important to remember that the hair loss is only temporary and it will grow back 8 to 10 months after the treatment. According to Mayo Clinic, many people treat this condition with medicines such as minoxidil, which is in fact ineffective. Although there is no treatment for this condition, patients can cope by wearing head scarves, hats etc.
  • Anemia: Cancer treatment causes a drop in red blood cells in the blood, which carry oxygen throughout the body. This causes other side effects such as tiredness, weakness and breathlessness. A balanced diet which is high on protein is advised along with adequate intake of water throughout the day.
  • Diminished Sex Drive: Those who are suffering from cancer experience a diminished sex drive. According to Mayo Clinic, men suffering from pelvic cancer experience sexual dysfunction while women being treated for breast cancer and gynecological cancer also suffer from sexual dysfunction. Apart from the physical causes, psychological factors such as depression, anxiety etc. are also responsible for diminished sexual drive. In such conditions, it is important to talk to a doctor and discuss the apprehension and ways to overcome it. Patients should also make it a point to discuss with the partner in order to ensure better relationship. Sexual dysfunction tends to last even after a year or two after the completion of the treatment; therefore communication is extremely important in order to avoid strain on the relationship.

As seen from the above discussion, cancer treatment can have severe side- effects; thus it is best to be well prepared to face them and enlist support of loved ones and friends.

Author Bio: Sameer Gupta is a medical writer who writes well-researched, in-depth cancer articles which provide relevant information to help patients combat the deadly disease.

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