- Avoid milk and milk products.
- Avoid gas-producing vegetables, dried fruit, fiber cereals, seeds, popcorn, nuts, corn and dried beans.
- Eat low-residue, low-fiber foods such as those included in the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast).
- Drink more fluids, such as water and broth, to prevent dehydration.
- Keep your mouth clean. Its important to brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush after each meal and to use mouthwashes (without alcohol) regularly.
- Encourage saliva production. Suck on sugar-free sweets or chew sugar-free gum which can encourage saliva production. Pineapple chunks, ice cubes and frozen tonic water, yogurt and buttermilk can also be helpful, although some people find that very cold foods or drinks may be too uncomfortable to use.
- Keep your mouth moist. Drink sips of water or sugar-free fizzy drinks regularly throughout the day. Also, rinsing your mouth with a little vegetable oil (about a teaspoon) or a small amount of softened butter or margarine can help, especially at night.
- Cut down or avoid substances that can dry the mouth, such as alcohol, caffeine and smoking.
- Some prescribed medicines can also cause dry mouth and it can be helpful to ask your doctor or nurse to identify these, as it may be possible to reduce the dosage or change the drug.
- Acupuncture can also be helpful and may help to increase the amount of saliva that is produced.
- Boost your appetite. Make sure to drink fluids with meals, including plenty of sauces and gravy with meals. Include foods with high fluid content, such as jelly, purred fruits and soft puddings into your diet. Avoid dry and thick foods such as biscuits, crackers and dry snacks.
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, 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 or 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.
- Take a lukewarm bath if flu-like symptoms cause a fever. You can use ice packs or cold on your body for comfort. A cool, moist wash cloth on your forehead can also be comforting.
- Drink lots of liquids (non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks).
- Take medication to control symptoms of fever as recommended.
- For chills, put on some warm clothes, blankets or take a warm bath.
- For muscle/joint aches, apply heat or cold to the joints or muscles to help in relieving discomfort.
- Rest when you feel achy or tired. There should be a balance between rest and exercise. Try relaxation techniques.
- For headaches, rest in a quiet, dimly lit room. Try listening to some relaxing music and/or massage the tension areas.
Hair Loss (Alopecia)
- 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.
Prevention of Infections
- 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.
- Avoid having blood pressure taken on the affected, or at risk, limb. The blood pressure cuff can damage delicate lymphatic tissues within this area.
- Never allow an injection or blood draw in the at risk limb. Any break in the skin can lead to an infection that can trigger the development of lymphedema.
- Do not allow a finger stick blood draw on an at risk hand. This breaks the skin and can cause an infection that triggers lymphedema.
- Do not allow an IV to be placed in the at risk limb. Fluids from the IV can leak into the tissues and add yet another risk for developing lymphedema.
- Excessive weight puts added strain on your already stressed lymphatic system. Therefore keeping your body weight within a normal range is an important preventive factor.
- Exercise helps the lymphatic system function properly. It also helps you feel better and is important in weight control. However, after cancer treatment you should not just return to your previous exercise regimen without first asking professional advice.
- Avoid sunburns, overheating and other skin injuries. Many structures of the lymphatic system are located just under the skin and any damage to these tissues can trigger the onset of lymphedema.
- Avoid steam rooms, hot tubs and saunas. These facilities are designed to raise your core body temperature and make you sweat. Such heat is best avoided because it increases swelling and could cause the onset of lymphedema.
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 when you’ve had the flu or were nauseated from stress. These may be bland foods, sour candy, pickles, dry crackers, ginger ale, flat soda or others.
- Do not eat fatty or fried foods. The smells from hot foods may make your nausea worse.
- 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.
- Cut down on animal fats, salt and sugar.
- Eat at least 5 servings (combined) of fruits and vegetables daily.
- For cooking, use olive oil, canola oil or other unhydrogenated vegetable oils.
- Limit your intake of alcohol.
- If you can eat, 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 then 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.
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.