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Cancer medicines are strong, and their side effects can be intense. But there are ways to manage them.

The key is to let your doctor know what's bothering you so he or she can recommend changes that help.

In some cases, your doctor may be able to change your prescriptions or adjust the dose. For example, with chemotherapy, "we try to get a dose that works against the tumor but that the patient can still tolerate," says Julie Gralow, MD, of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

These seven issues are particularly common -- and many of them can be eased, if not eliminated.

 

Nausea/Vomiting

Chemotherapy is known for causing waves of nausea and vomiting.

Tips: For relief, your doctor may prescribe an anti-nausea drug or even recommend acupuncture. Research shows that this ancient Chinese practice of sticking needles in your skin at specific points may relieve nausea and vomiting. 

You can also make some changes in your diet to soothe your stomach, including the following:

  • Eat several small meals a day instead of three large ones.
  • Ease nausea with natural ginger found in sodas, teas, and candies.
  • Be bland. Stay away from greasy, fried, salty, sweet, or spicy foods.
  • Avoid food with strong smells. And stay out of the kitchen while others are cooking.
  • Stay hydrated by sipping clear liquids like broth, juice, and sport drinks throughout the day.
  • Wait at least one hour after treatment to eat and drink.

Fatigue

Many people feel very tired during cancer treatment, even after sleep. Your treatments go on for a long time without a break, and a deep fatigue can build up.

Tip: One of the best things you can do is to get moving.

"Research shows that women who get regular exercise during cancer treatment feel better and have more energy," says Virginia Borges, MD, of the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine.

It's understandable if you don't feel like it. You don’t have to push hard or go far. Do what you can. Try gentle forms of yoga, brisk walks, or other moderate exercise.