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9 Ways You Can Cope With the Physical Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Dr Rana Atique anwar

2 min read

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Those regular bouts of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can take a heavy toll, not just on your emotional health, but also your physical well-being.

While these treatments are essential for removing the cancer in early stages, or prolonging your life-expectancy in advanced stages, they come with a whole host of seemingly never-ending symptoms. This is how oncologists suggest you can cope with the physical side-effects of cancer treatment to tide you over until therapy continues:


Chemotherapy and radiation kill healthy cells along with abnormal cancer cells. This forces extra burden on your already tired body to rapidly generate new cells.

So, try to rest as much as possible to conserve energy for recovery. Also, don’t overwork yourself, and don’t hesitate from taking daytime naps if and when needed.

2-Be Gentle:

Chemotherapy and radiation have a damaging and sensitizing effect on hair follicles and other sensitive areas. So, prevent unnecessary shedding and bleeding by wash your hair less frequently, and avoid pulling on it while combing.

Also, avoid using flat or curling irons on high heat, and switch to a wide-toothed comb. For your sensitized gums, brush gently with a soft toothbrush, and opt for disposable straight razors for shaving to avoid any cuts, and excess bleeding as a result.

3-Dress Loose:

While estrogen supplements can help control hot flashes common in menopausal women, they are not recommended for pre-menopausal women, or those diagnosed with breast cancer, due to increased risk of recurrence. Instead, wear multiple layers of loose-fitting clothes to remain cool.

4-Enjoy More Fiber:

Constipation and stool hardening are common side-effects of cancer treatment. This can lead to persistent bloating and painful abdominal cramps.

So, increase your daily intake of fibrous foods to combat the gastric effects of chemotherapy and radiation. These include apples, oranges, bananas, raspberries, dark-colored vegetables, and whole-grains, among others.

Increasing water consumption will also help relieve constipation by softening the stools. Moreover, it also helps control diarrhea and nausea; both companion side-effects of cancer therapy. You can also try light drinks like ginger ale for nausea relief.

5-Eat Smaller:

Not only does the nausea caused by therapy decrease appetite, but also causes mouth sores, which makes eating painful and difficult.

So instead of forcing yourself to eat larger meals, or risking undernourishment, try small, soft, nutrient and protein-rich meals. Examples include milkshakes, granola bars, whole-milk yogurt, and peanut butter.

6-Use Heat or Ice:

For headaches, sore joints, and body-wide muscular pain relief, try applying ice packs or heating pads over the sore areas. However, wrap the ice packs in a towel, and keep the heating pad on a low setting to avoid cold or heat burns.

7-Wash Your Hands:

A practice that you should also continue into your post-therapy days, wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with warm water and soap; especially after cleaning, coming from outdoors, etc.

This is because chemotherapy and radiation reduce the number of white blood cells, among other healthy cells, hence multiplying your chances of contracting an infection.

8-Start Writing:

‘Chemo Brain’ is real and affects most people undergoing long-term chemotherapy. So, keep a notebook to write down reminders for when the mental fog and confusion descends after a therapy session.

You can also use this notebook to record any unexplained side-effects of your treatment, to help you and your doctor figure out and treat the root cause.

9-Book an appointment with top Oncologist:

Al of the above symptoms, and more, are normal routine with cancer treatment, and will generally fade away weeks or months after treatment. However, always share any treatment-induced symptoms with your doctor and healthcare team, no matter how trivial, to prevent and possible complications.

You can also book an appointment with a top Oncologist in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your therapy-related requirements.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr Rana Atique anwar - Author Dr. Rana Atique Anwar Khan is among the Best Oncologists in Multan. Dr. Rana Atique Anwar Khan is a Oncologist practicing in Multan. Dr. Rana Atique Anwar Khan has the following degrees: MBBS, FCPS (Radio Therapy) and has 14 years of experience.
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