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- How do I prepare for chemotherapy
How do I prepare for chemotherapy
Chemotherapy affects everyone differently, so it can be hard to know how to prepare for treatment. However, there are some things you can think about doing in advance to make it easier to cope with chemotherapy treatment and any side effects that you may experience.
Look after yourselfTry to stay as healthy as you can before and during treatment. Eat nourishing food, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, and balance rest and physical activity. Regular exercise and good nutrition can help reduce some of the side effects of chemotherapy. If you smoke, try to quit.
Ask about fertilitySome types of chemotherapy can affect male and female fertility. If you think you may want to have children in future, talk to your specialist about your options before chemotherapy begins.
Pack a chemo bagA bag for your chemo sessions could include warm clothing; healthy snacks; lip balm; and something to pass the time, such as books, headphones for listening to music and podcasts, or a laptop.
Organise helpIf you have children, you may need to arrange for someone to look after them when you have treatment. While you may be able to drive after treatment, it’s recommended that someone drive you on the first day. A friend or family member may coordinate other offers of help (e.g. with housework), or try online tools such as Can Do App or gathermycrew.org.au.
Discuss your concernsIf you are feeling anxious about the diagnosis and having chemotherapy, talk to a family member or friend, your health care team, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20. You could also learn relaxation or meditation strategies to help manage anxiety.
Talk to your employerIf you are working, talk to your employer about how much time you are likely to need off. It is hard to predict how chemotherapy will affect you, so you could discuss the option of flexible hours or taking some leave.
Freeze some mealsYou may not feel like cooking during your treatment. Consider making some meals ahead of time and freezing them or have ready-to-eat food available (e.g. tinned fruit, yoghurt, soup). Sometimes, family and friends will arrange a meal roster.
Check your teethIt is a good idea to visit your dentist before chemotherapy begins. Infection and bleeding are more likely during chemotherapy, so it is best to have any tooth decay treated before starting treatment. Dental problems that arise during treatment may also interrupt your treatment schedule.
Prepare for side effectsTalk to your treatment team about possible side effects. Ask whether you can take medicine to prevent nausea and vomiting. Buy a thermometer so you can check your temperature during treatment. If hair loss is likely, think about having it cut or choosing a wig before treatment starts.
Check other medicinesTell your doctor and pharmacist about any other medicines you are taking. Some over-the-counter medicines, alternative and home remedies, herbs and vitamins can affect how chemotherapy works. For more on this see Complementary therapies and chemotherapy.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Prof Timothy Price, Medical Oncologist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA; Graham Borgas, Consumer: Dr Joanna Dewar, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Professor, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, WA; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Angela Kritikos, Senior Oncology Dietitian, Dietetic Department, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Kate Mahon, Director of Medical Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Georgie Pearson, Consumer; Chris Rivett, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Marissa Ryan, Acting Consultant Pharmacist (Cancer Services), Pharmacy Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.
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