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9 Things Every Cancer Fighter Should Know About Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can cause many side-effects which may make patients vulnerable to infections. Patients are often aware of a few side-effects such as hair loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, very few patients are familiar with this another type of side-effect called Neutropenia.

Neutropenia occurs when a person has a low white-blood-cell count. Chemotherapy helps to kill cancer cells in the body. But with these cancer cells, they may also kill healthy white cells of the body. As these white cells protect the body from various infections, you may become susceptible to infections especially when you are receiving chemotherapy.

This condition is a matter of concern for many oncologists as it will not only make the patient sick, but will also interfere with chemo treatment, hospitalize you, and may also cause death. Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy should follow the following tips to prevent themselves from infections.

1. Watch out for fever

Take your body temperature if you feel unwell or chilly as it can be a sign of an infection. If your temperature rises to 100.4°F (38°C) or higher then immediately call your doctor, even if it is midnight. This is important because fever during chemo treatment can be life-threatening and will require immediate medical emergency.

2. Make yourself aware of signs and symptoms of various infections

When you are on chemotherapy, your body is unable to protect you from infections. Thus, if you observe any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

  • Fever 
  • Feeling cold and sweating
  • Change in cough
  • Sore throat
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Stuffy or runny nose 
  • Stiff neck
  • Urination problems
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Inflammation, swelling and pain in some areas including the wounded areas
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry skin and irritation
  • Change in moods

3. Ask your doctor when your immunity will be the lowest

During your chemo treatment, you will be getting many doses, which will also be called cycles. After 1 or 2 weeks of completing each dose, your white blood cell count will be the lowest. So, ask your doctor that when your body will be the weakest so that you can be cautious at that time.

4. Wash your fingers and nails thoroughly

You have to keep yourself away from germs and infections. As most of the germs and infections spread through dirty hands, it is necessary to wash your hands thoroughly. Your family members that stay with you or your doctor, nurse or anyone who is around you should wash their hands properly. Use soap and water to keep your hands clean. In case soap and water are not available, you can use a hand sanitizer containing alcohol.

5. Get yourself vaccinated

Patients who are undergoing chemotherapy should get a seasonal flu shot to prevent themselves from flu-related complications. Talk to your doctor for further information regarding this flu shot.

6. Take your medications properly

Doctors have created a detailed plan to cure your cancer and to ensure that you feel much better and healthy. So, it’s now your duty to follow your doctor’s plan and take medications as prescribed. Follow the tips below to make sure that your treatment continues as it was planned.

  • Take the medicines as your doctor has prescribed.
  • Do not skip a dose.
  • Keep a stock of medicines so that they never get used up.
  • Never take other patients' medicines even if it is of the same type and the same dose.
  • If you notice any side-effects, immediately inform your doctor.
  • Medications that do not require doctor’s prescriptions should be consumed only after consulting your doctor.

7. Handle Catheter or Port with proper care

To reduce the risk of infections, you must take extra care of your device. So, keep it clean and dry and wash your hands before touching it. If you notice any redness, inflammation, swelling or drainage in that area, report it to your doctor or nurse. It can be a sign of an infection.

8. Maintain good personal hygiene

The intake of medications may have a large effect on your skin. Your skin may become dry due to which you may feel itchy. Due to this itchiness, you may scratch your skin, which may cause openings in the skin. Thus, germs can enter through these openings and you may get the infection. Thus, you need to bathe every day and clean all the sweaty areas with warm water and mild soap. Do not rub the skin, just wash yourself lightly and then pat yourself with a clean towel. Do not share your towel with anyone and moisturize your skin after you have dried.

9. Avoid certain foods:

During chemo treatment, you may suffer from poor appetite or may not feel like eating anything. But try to eat nutritious food as your body requires strength to make repairs. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of fluids throughout the day. However, there are certain foods that can be harmful to you such as undercooked or raw meat and eggs, raw or unpasteurized products and unwashed fruits and vegetables. So, take proper care of yourself and avoid these foods.

References:

1. CDC Foundation

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Tasneem

Tasneem

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