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- Common questions about chemotherapy
- How do I prepare for chemotherapy
How do I prepare for chemotherapy
Chemotherapy affects everyone differently, so it can be hard to know exactly how to prepare. However, a number of general issues are worth considering in advance.
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. Good nutrition and regular exercise can help reduce some chemotherapy side effects. If you smoke, try to quit. For support, call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit iCanQuit.
Ask about fertilitySome types of chemotherapy can affect your fertility. Whether you are a man or a woman, 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 in case you get cold; healthy snacks; lip balm; and something to pass the time, such as books, magazines, crossword puzzles, music with headphones, or a laptop computer or tablet.
Organise help at homeIf you have young children, you may need to arrange for someone to look after them during the treatment sessions and possibly afterwards if you become unwell from side effects. Older children may need lifts to and from school and activities. Some support with housework and errands can also ease the load.
Ask one friend or family member to coordinate offers of help, or use an online tool such as candoapp.com.au or caringbridge.org.
Discuss your concernsIf you are feeling anxious about the diagnosis and having chemotherapy, talk to a family member or friend, your GP or a member of your health care team, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for support. You could also learn relaxation or meditation strategies to manage anxiety as these have been found to benefit cancer patients going through treatment.
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 the weeks of your chemotherapy treatment. Consider making some meals ahead 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 often a good idea to visit your dentist for a check-up before chemotherapy begins. The dentist can check for any decayed teeth that may cause issues if they need to be removed while you’re having chemotherapy.
Prepare for side effectsTalk to your treatment team about likely 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 you are likely to lose the hair from your head, think about whether you want to cut it or choose a wig before treatment starts.
Check other medicinesTell your doctor about any other medicines you are using. Some over-the-counter medicines, alternative and home remedies, herbs and vitamins can affect how chemotherapy works, leading to over or under treatment of the cancer.
Clinical A/Prof Rosemary Harrup, Director, Cancer and Blood Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Katie Benton, Advanced Dietitian, Cancer Care, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Queensland Health, QLD; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Stacey Burton, Consumer; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Andrew Greig, Consumer; Steve Higgs, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT.
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