Rest and Relaxation
- Get a good night’s sleep; about 8 hours is usually recommended for adults.
- Keep a regular bedtime schedule.
- Do something relaxing before bedtime: read, watch TV or take a bath.
- Learn and practice a relaxation technique; it will help you emotionally as well as physically.
- If you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes, get up and do something else and try again later.
- Don’t eat, drink fluids or exercise close to your bedtime.
- Take short rests when you feel tired. Avoid long naps during the day so that you can sleep well at night.
- Take action to treat a poor appetite, because eating improperly can make you tired.
- If your fatigue is severe of chronic, ask for help with routine tasks that can drain your energy, such as grocery shopping or housework. Some people reduce their hours at work.
- If you can, eat foods high in protein several times a day. These foods include milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, meat, fish, eggs, beans, peanut butter and nuts. Protein helps build and repair tissue, and cancer treatments cause you to use more protein than usual.
- To maintain your weight, eat high-calorie foods, such as margarine or butter, sugar, honey, jams, jellies, cream cheese, dried fruit, gravies or sauces, mayonnaise and salad dressing.
- Get plenty of fluids to help control your body temperature and improve food elimination. In addition to water, fruit juices and other liquids, try gelatin, pudding, soups, fruit bars and ice cream.
- Eat small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large ones.
- Keep snacks handy to eat when you are hungry.
- Eat with friends or play your favorite music at mealtime to boost your appetite.
- Eat your biggest meal in the morning. Many people getting treatment for cancer find that this is when their appetite is greatest.
- If you can, increase your activity level. Doing so may boost your appetite.
- On days you do not feel like eating at all, do not worry about it. Try again the next day. If you find your appetite does not improve in several days, talk with your doctor or nurse.
Fluid in the Abdomen (Ascites)
- Reducing the amount of sodium and restricting the intake of fluids can help, although this regimen may be unpleasant and difficult to follow.
- Diuretics are medications that reduce the amount of water in the body. Although diuretics are effective and well tolerated in most people, they may cause unpleasant side effects in some people, including loss of sleep, skin problems, fatigue, low blood pressure and problems with self-esteem.
- If fluid in the abdomen is causing respiratory, or breathing, problems or the diuretic treatments stops working, ask your doctor about therapeutic paracentesis.
- In rare instances, surgery may be required, which involves placing a shunt (a device used to bypass or divert fluid from one place to another) or catheter (a small tube placed into a vein temporarily) to drain fluids from the abdomen.
- Consider cutting your hair short before treatment starts.
- Think about getting a wig, hat or scarf before your hair loss starts. That way, you can get a wig that matches your hair, and you will be ready with head coverings, if you choose to use them.
- Because your scalp may be more sensitive to temperature and sun, protect it with sunscreen and hats or scarves.
- Be gentle to your hair and scalp.
- Use low heat when using a hair dryer.
- Keep yourself clean by bathing each day, giving extra attention to feet, groin, armpits and other moist, sweaty areas.
- After bathing, check for redness, swelling and soreness where any tubes or catheters enter your body.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands before eating and before touching your face or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.).
- Wear shoes at all times in the hospital, outdoors and at home to avoid injury and to avoid getting extra germs on your skin.
- If you cut or scrape your skin, clean the area right away with soap and warm water. Cover the area with a clean bandage to protect it. If the bandage gets wet or dirty, clean the injury and put on a new bandage. Tell your doctor if you notice redness, swelling, pain or tenderness.
Fatigue from Anemia
- Take short rests when you are tired. Avoid long naps during the day so that you can sleep well at night.
- Add mild exercise, such as walking, to your daily routine.
- Balance activity with rest. Save your energy for important tasks.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration adds to fatigue.
- Eat small meals frequently throughout the day.
- Talk with your doctor about medications or treatments that may help manage your anemia.
- Get up slowly from lying or sitting positions to reduce dizziness.
Mouth or Lip Sores (Mucositis)
- Use lip balm or another lip moisturizer.
- Use a soft toothbrush and brush your teeth after eating.
- Use mouthwash that does not contain alcohol.
- Keep your mouth and lips clean and moist.
- Frequently rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
- Avoid foods that might irritate your mouth such as spicy foods, orange juice and pretzels.
- Use sugar-free candies or gums to increase moisture in your mouth.
- Ask your doctor about topical mouth medications.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol, if necessary.
Nausea and Vomiting
- Ask your doctor about getting a prescription medicine to control nausea and vomiting. Then make sure you take it as directed. If you are vomiting and cannot take the medicine, call your doctor or nurse again.
- If you have bothersome nausea and vomiting even though you are taking your medicine, call your doctor or nurse. Your medicine can be changed.
- Try eating foods and drinking beverages that were easy to take or made you feel better in the past when you had the flu or were nauseated. These may be bland foods, sour candy, pickles, dry crackers, ginger ale, flat soda or others.
- Do not eat fatty or fried foods.
- Ask your doctor or nurse if he or she can help you learn a relaxation exercise. This may make you feel less anxious and more in control and decrease your nausea.
- Ask your doctor or nurse about using acupressure bands on your wrists, which may help decrease your nausea.
Skin Dryness or Irritation
- Protect your skin from sun exposure by wearing sunscreen of at least 15 SPF.
- Ask your doctor or nurse what kind of lotion you can use to moisturize and soothe your skin. Don’t use any lotion, soap, deodorant, sunblock, cologne, cosmetics or powder on your skin within 2 hours of treatment because they may cause irritation.
- Wear loose, soft clothing over the treated area. Cotton underwear can help prevent further irritation.
- Don’t scratch, rub or scrub treated skin. After washing, gently blot dry.
- Don’t bandage skin with tape. If you must bandage it, use paper tape, and ask your nurse to help you place the dressings so that you can avoid irritation.
- Don’t apply heat or cold to the treated area. Bathe only with lukewarm water.
- Keep your nails well trimmed and clean.
Numbness and Tingling (Peripheral Neuropathy)
- Acupuncture is believed to relieve pain associated with peripheral neuropathy in certain cases. Ask your doctor for more details and the name of a licensed acupuncturist.
- Massage increases blood flow and may provide pain relief associated with peripheral neuropathy.
- Physical therapy uses range of motion and stretching exercises that may help strengthen muscles that are weak and improve other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
- Transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS) uses a special device that transmits electrical impulses through electrodes attached to your skin. TENS has been shown to provide pain relief and may promote nerve regeneration.
- Eat slowly and chew foods thoroughly. If a person shows signs of choking or difficulty breathing, the Heimlich maneuver should be performed immediately.
- You may have an easier time swallowing liquids or pureed foods than solids. Avoid very cold or very hot foods if you notice that they worsen the problem.