Life After Chemo

Tips on how to manage life post-chemotherapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Chemotherapy can take a health toll that can rival the cancer it treats in terms of discomfort and maintenance. Here are a few ways to take care of yourself or a loved one following chemotherapy.

After chemotherapy, the immune system is shot, leaving patients at increased risk of infection, skin problems, bleeding, mouth sores, upset stomach and diarrhea, among other maladies.

Eat Safely

Watch what you eat after chemotherapy, making sure to avoid any undercooked or spoiled foods. Choose foods with low sugar and salt content, and avoid raw foods, including fruits and vegetables, unless certain they are safe.

Avoid Infection

Make certain to wash hands before handling food and after doing housework, going to the bathroom, changing a diaper or being outdoors.

Stay away from crowds if possible, and ask visitors to wear a mask when visiting.

Avoid yard work and stay away from young kittens and puppies. If you have a cat, ask someone else to clean thw litter box.

Oral Care

It's vital to brush teeth and gums two to three times and gently floss once daily following chemotherapy. Be sure to let your toothbrush air dry between brushings. Rinse often (about six times a day, if possible) with a salt-and-baking soda solution (one-half teaspoon of both in 1 cup of water). Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol.

Keep lots of lip balm handy to prevent lips from drying and cracking.

Abstain from wearing dentures for the first three to four weeks except when eating.

Tell your doctor if any new oral sores appear.

These measures will help reduce oral complications.

Self-Care

Begin a walking routine -- but start slowly, and increase your speed and distance gradually.

Make sure to eat enough protein and snacks to boost and sustain energy. (Ask your physician about liquid supplements, which can help with protein, calories, vitamins and nutrients.

Lastly, be sure to let your doctor know immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

• Fevers, chills, or sweats. These may be signs of infection.
• Diarrhea that does not go away or is bloody
• Severe nausea and vomiting
• Being unable to eat or drink
• Extreme weakness
• Redness, swelling, or drainage from any place where you have an IV line inserted into your body
• A new skin rash or blisters
• Jaundice (the white part of your eyes or skin looks yellow)
• Pain in your stomach area
• A very bad headache or one that does not go away
• A cough that is getting worse
• Trouble breathing when you are at rest or when you are doing simple tasks
• Burning when you urinate

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 22, 2011
Last Updated:
February 22, 2011