Coping With Cancer and Other Chronic Medical Conditions

While you are coping with the emotional, physical and other challenges related to a cancer diagnosis, ignoring other long-lasting medical conditions you may have can be easy. But, these conditions and the way you deal with them usually have a great impact on your cancer treatment plan and its success.

These chronic conditions you have along with cancer are called co-existing conditions and you should talk to your cancer care team so they can work out solutions to minimize the risks such as:

  • interactions between drugs for your chronic condition and cancer drugs
  • worsening of the chronic condition by cancer treatment
  • cancer treatment interference caused by a chronic condition
  • influence of chronic condition on the recovery after cancer treatment

When preparing a plan for cancer treatment, it is necessary to know that a chronic condition may affect the cancer treatment.

Heart disease

If you have a heart condition, you need to know that chemotherapy can cause congestive heart failure, preventing the heart from pumping enough blood to the rest of the body. Some drugs for heart conditions can interact with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy or its combination with chemotherapy can cause additional heart issues. Your cardiologist may prescribe drugs to protect your heart during the treatment. The doctor will measure blood pressure and test heart function regularly to make sure that heart condition of patients who are at risk of developing complications is managed properly.


If you have diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar levels during cancer treatment is required because chemotherapy and radiation therapy may increase blood glucose levels. Also, stress, physical activity, and vomiting may affect blood sugar levels. The body of patients with diabetes may also find it harder to fight infection. You need to manage your diabetes so it doesn’t interfere with your treatment. Along with measuring blood glucose levels, you should take anti-nausea medications and eat low-sugar foods. Your doctor may include fast-acting insulin in addition to your regular dosage of insulin during cancer treatment.

Mental health problems

If you have anxiety or depression, your doctor can help you manage with these issues during your cancer treatment. Conditions such as anxiety and depression interfere with the treatment process and make it harder for you to have screenings, take medications, or complete other everyday responsibilities. Mental conditions can keep you from seeking support during cancer treatment. Cancer support groups, group or individual counseling and the right medications can help you deal with treatment process and manage your mental health. Patients who are taking medications to control depression or anxiety should talk to their doctor to avoid any drug interactions with cancer treatment.

Consult your doctor

When talking to your doctor about cancer treatment options, make sure that your complete medical history outlining your chronic conditions is taken into consideration. The doctor has to know what medications you are taking, how often you take them, previous medical procedures, drug allergies, and other information that will minimize the risk of complications. You may be asked to stop taking certain drugs for your chronic condition due to potential interactions with cancer treatments.

Therefore, before starting treatment, consult your doctor or a member of your health care team about chronic conditions you may have to ensure your body responds to cancer treatment.

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