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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Feel Better During Breast Cancer Treatment

By
WebMD Feature

Cancer medicines are strong. And their side effects can be intense, but you've got ways to ease them.

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

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In some cases, he 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 are common side effects and tips to help you manage them.

Nausea and Vomiting

Chemotherapy may give you these stomach issues.

Tips: Your doctor may prescribe an anti-nausea drug or even recommend acupuncture. Research shows that this ancient Chinese practice of placing needles into your skin at specific points may help relieve nausea and vomiting.

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

  • 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. Sip clear liquids like broth, juice, and sport drinks throughout the day.
  • Wait at least an hour after treatment to eat and drink.

Fatigue

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

Tip: 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.

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.

During chemotherapy and radiation, make your workouts less intense than they were before you had cancer. When you're ready, you can gradually make them more challenging.

Ask your doctor if there are any limits on what you can do. For instance, if your immune system is weaker because of treatment, it might be best not to exercise in a gym where you might be exposed to other people’s germs. Your doctor can also check for other causes of fatigue such as anemia and thyroid problems.

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