With its debilitating side effects, cancer treatment can feel like an endurance test. You might be dealing with nausea, vomiting, hair loss and intense fatigue. You might also be dealing with fear, stress and uncertainty over what the future holds or how treatment will affect you.
Thankfully, there are things that can help. There are many evidence-based or evidence-informed strategies to help ease treatment side effects and enhance cancer therapies.
Fatigue is common after many different cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy. Fatigue may be due to:
- Physical changes such as anaemia, chronic pain and hormonal shifts
- The emotional rollercoaster you’re on
- Disturbed sleep
- Certain medications
- Being less active than usual, which can make you feel lethargic.
Exercise and massage therapy have been shown to ease fatigue.
A 2021 meta-analysis found that mind-body exercise such as yoga or tai chi improved cancer-related fatigue in women with breast cancer. A 2018 randomised controlled trial found that Swedish massage therapy led to ‘clinically significant relief’ of cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer patients who had had surgery plus radiation and/or chemotherapy/chemoprevention.
A healthy diet is always important but you need more nutrients than usual during cancer treatment.
That’s easier said than done though. If you’re experiencing nausea and vomiting, you probably don’t feel much like eating. Ginger tea, sweets or tablets may help ease nausea.
I can develop a personalised meal plan for you that will enhance your nutrition through a mostly plant-based diet. You’ll benefit from a range of colourful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins such as beans and tofu and some meat.
Supplements can be helpful for some patients, especially if you’ve developed osteoporosis or iron deficiency anemia. However, you shouldn’t start taking any supplements without the guidance of a qualified cancer health professional.
Stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression – these are common experiences for women living with cancer, which can lower your quality of life.
One study allocated women with breast cancer into groups. Both groups had been through breast-conserving surgery and were about to start radiotherapy. One group, though, had two meditation sessions a week alongside their radiotherapy. That made a big difference. They were less anxious, less fatigued and had an overall improvement in their quality of life.
Complementary therapies like acupuncture can be used alongside your conventional treatments.
While more research needs to be done, some studies suggest that acupuncture may help to relieve nausea and pain after chemotherapy, may ease breathlessness and may relieve fatigue and insomnia.
Physiotherapy or occupational therapy
Physiotherapy can help to prepare and sustain you during cancer treatment. It can help to reduce fatigue, improve resilience, enhance recovery and foster a sense of control.
Dealing with breathlessness, fatigue, weakness or brain fog can make it harder to do everyday tasks. Occupational therapists help you to maintain your independence and equip you to manage daily activities.
Cold caps keep your scalp at a very low temperature during chemotherapy. That can help you to retain more of your hair.
A cold cap may be like a stretchy swim cap that you keep in the freezer. Some centres also offer a mechanical cap, which is attached to a small machine and blows cold air onto your scalp.
If you’re receiving chemotherapy, you may develop a painfully sore mouth or mouth ulcers that can become infected. Known as oral mucositis, this can have serious consequences.
Oral cryotherapy means cooling your mouth while you have chemotherapy. The cold constricts the blood vessels in your mouth, which makes it harder for chemotherapy drugs to enter those tissues and cause oral mucositis.
Chewing ice chips is a natural, cheap treatment with no side effects. It can prevent oral mucositis in some patients, depending on your type of cancer treatment.
How can MyOncoThrive help?
If you’re currently experiencing side effects from your cancer treatment, or if you’re feeling apprehensive about the possibilities, please contact me.
I’d love to work with you to create a preventative, restorative and participatory wellness framework that will equip you with tools and strategies to reduce cancer risk and minimise its impact on your overall well-being.
Please get in touch.
All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. MyOncoThrive can consult with you to confirm if a particular treatment is right for you.