Coping with Cancer Treatment
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed, June 06, 2007
By Marianne Bunce-Houston, RN
"I HAVE CANCER." These are three words no one wants to say, nor to hear from someone they love.
Unfortunately, though, almost one in three people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.
The good news is that cancer treatments are becoming more effective, and survival rates for many cancers are good. But coping with cancer treatment is not a simple experience for either the patient or their loved ones.
Work with your oncology nurse (nurses who specialize in cancer treatment), and use the following tips and community resources.
Managing side effects
Nausea and vomiting can be serious side effects of chemotherapy, but can be managed. Usually your cancer doctor and nurse will prescribe an anti-emetic (anti-nausea) course of therapy using different medicines that work on different areas of the brain or stomach.
Nausea is divided into two categories: immediate and delayed onset, depending whether the nausea starts during the chemotherapy or a day or two later.
The anti-nausea treatment depends on its category and expected severity. There are eight types of anti-nausea medicines, and more than 20 different anti-nausea medicines that can be used in various combinations. Those wanting details can find them at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/nausea/healthprofessional
If nausea and/or vomiting persist, call your oncology nurse for suggestions. Don't wait until the next clinic appointment.
Alopecia (hair loss) also is another possible side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. Hair will usually grow back after finishing your treatment. You can minimize the effect alopecia has on your life by using a variety of head coverings.
The local chapter of the American Cancer Society has ongoing "Look Good, Feel Better" educational programs on skin care during treatment and provides free scarves, wigs and make-up.
Fatigue, loneliness and confusion may accompany cancer treatment. Support from family and friends is vital. Loved ones or friends can:
In addition to your doctor and nurse, the following are organizations that provide referrals, support groups, classes, and/or information:
Bunce-Houston has worked in the field of oncology for 20 years, and is the oncology clinical nurse specialist in the Cancer Center at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.