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Tips for Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects

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Chemotherapy can help fight cancer, but it also has side effects. Everyone reacts differently. The type of chemo drugs you use can affect your experience.

Try these tips to help manage some common side effects.

Nausea and Vomiting

You can help ease nausea and vomiting by changing your eating patterns:

  • Eat five or six small meals rather than three big ones.  
  • Take your time when you eat and drink.  
  • Drink an hour before or after meals rather than when you eat. Apple juice, tea, and flat ginger ale may help.  
  • Avoid strong-smelling foods. Strong smells can sometimes bring on nausea.  
  • Pass on sweets, and fried and fatty foods, which may make you queasy.

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe anti-nausea drugs. These are usually given to prevent you from feeling nauseous, rather than after you've started vomiting.  

Talk to your doctor about the best anti-nausea drug for you. Sometimes you may need to try different drugs until you find one that helps you the most.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

  • Try acupuncture. Some people have found it helps relieve nausea and vomiting.  
  • Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation may also help stop these side effects.

Taste Changes

Some types of chemotherapy can affect your sense of taste. Follow these tips to better enjoy eating:

  • Red meat may taste different to you. If so, try poultry, mild-flavored fish, or dairy products instead.  
  • If your favorite foods taste different, avoid them so you don't develop a distaste for them.  
  • If foods taste metallic, try eating with plastic utensils.  
  • Use a sweet marinade to help bring flavor to your main dish.

Fatigue

You may find yourself feeling tired, but there are ways to help manage that.

  • Rest or take short naps during the day  
  • Exercise. A short walk may boost your energy.  
  • Ask family or friends for help when you need it.  
  • Focus your energy on important things.  

If you just can't shake the feeling of being tired, check with your doctor. In some patients, chemotherapy can lead to anemia and low red blood cell counts. Your doctor can test your blood and treat you if necessary.

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