Healthy Living

What to Expect After Chemotherapy

What to Expect After Chemotherapy

Key Takeaways

  • Complications after chemotherapy can include weight gain, loss, and fatigue.
  • Diet after chemotherapy can be a complicated issue, as many patients have difficulty eating at all.
  • You should contact your doctor if your condition worsens further than expected.

Chemotherapy is a treatment for many types of cancer. Chemotherapy works in various ways in fighting cancer in the human body: It suppresses cancer cells from growth and spreading to other parts of the body, kills cancer cells hence stopping the condition, and can also reduce recurrence of cancer and cancer related symptoms.

However, chemotherapy is a serious and complex procedure that requires a lot of care both during and after the procedures. Before one undergoes chemotherapy, they are required to prepare fully to prevent any complications that may arise. Some of the preparations involved include closely monitoring health and diet.

Chemotherapy can be done using many different types of drugs, since there are many available, and also because different anticancer drugs function in varying ways. A treatment plan is always tailored to a patient's specific condition, and this will affect the type of chemotherapy a patient will undergo. 

Different Methods of Chemotherapy

This refers to the different methods used in administering anticancer cells. These methods influence what to expect after chemotherapy. They include:

Intravenous (IV). This refers to a procedure where the drugs are administered directly through your veins.

Orally. For this type of chemotherapy, the anticancer drugs are made in the form of pills, liquids or capsules that you are required to take directly.

Topically. The drug is made in cream form. You are required to rub the cream on your skin.

Intra-arterial (IA). During this procedure, chemotherapy is done directly to the artery. This should be the artery that cancer cells are feeding from.

Intraperitoneal (IP). This is a type of chemotherapy that makes use of the peritoneal, and it is administered directly. The peritoneal is the region containing organs like ovaries, intestines, liver and stomach.

Injection. The drugs are in form of injection and are always administered in certain parts of the body such as the arms’ muscles, hip, leg, thigh or belly.

 

Things to Expect After Chemotherapy

     1. Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common things people complain of after chemotherapy. Additionally, chemotherapy-induced fatigue can be experienced both during the treatment and after the treatment.

The type of fatigue experienced after chemotherapy is not specific in terms of the duration it’s going to last. The severity and length of fatigue will depend greatly on a patient's type of cancer, as well as the method of chemotherapy delivery.

 

How to Fight Fatigue

Here are some things you can do to fight fatigue experienced after chemotherapy.

  • Have a normal routine of sleeping and waking up in the same time each day.
  • Keep yourself busy at the time of the day when you are feeling energetic.
  • If you are working, take rest breaks and naps to reduce fatigue.
  • Try doing things that you enjoy most. This helps to keep you relaxed.
  • Change the way you perform tasks to make sure that you reduce muscle strain as much as possible. For example, sit when washing or cooking.
  • You can also visit a doctor for advice on different ways through which you can deal with the effect like exercises and recommended diet.

      2. Weight Changes

Fluctuation in weight is one of the most common things people expect after chemotherapy. According to research, some people gain more weight while others lose weight instead. In some case even the rate at which one gains or loses weight may change.

Differences vary wildly. Many patients will report an increase in appetite, while some will have trouble finding motivation to eat at all.

 

How to Regain Your Appetite

Here are some tips you can follow to make sure that you regain your appetite:

  • Focus on your favorite foods. This is by going back to the foods that you liked most before undergoing the treatment.
  • Try changing the look of your meal. This is done by making your food look more attractive to improve your appetite. You can do this by adding more colorful ingredients to your food.
  • Take it slow. You are supposed to start working on a program that will slowly help you regain your appetite. This can be achieved by starting with small amounts of food and increasing with time. 
  • Pampering yourself. This is done by making your meal time the most important moment to you. Use the best glasses for drinks and other treats such as juice for your meal.

      3. Trouble Swallowing

Only a few people will undergo this effect after chemotherapy. If you undergo chemotherapy of the neck or head or radiation therapy then you are likely to have difficulties swallowing. However, this may not last for a long time. Taking the right steps can help deal with this within a very short time.

Here is what to do:

  • Process your food using a blender to make sure it is as soft as possible.
  • Eat moistened and soft foods. Foods such as, applesauce, soup, or pudding are good for making swallowing easier.
  • Try doing neck exercises as you swallow food. Twist you neck slowly as you swallow.
  • Always consult your doctor about a plan that will be best for you.

     4. Reduced Symptoms

Apart from other negative effects one may experience as a result of the treatment procedure, there are also positive effects! This is where the effects of cancer symptoms are reduced. If the procedure was successful, you will start experiencing some improvement in terms of body health. Be sure to monitor your progress with your physician.

 

When to Call a Doctor

In some cases, negative effects after chemotherapy may exceed what your doctor has explained to you. In such cases, you are advised to call or visit a doctor immediately. Here are some of the things to watch out for.

  • Constipation that can last for 2-3 days
  • Any symptom that seems abnormal for you.
  • If you experience a burning pain as you urinate.
  • If you have diarrhea that lasts for more than 24 hours.
  • Having loose and watery stools.
  • Pain that cannot be controlled by the medications provided.
  • Unusual bruising and bleeding.
  • Unusual sore throat, lung congestion, cough and shortness of breath.
  • Fever

The Bottom Line

Chemotherapy treatment depends on the health of the patient undergoing the treatment. If you have underlying infections as you undergo the treatment then you may experience further complications.