What to Expect From Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy, a treatment most often used to treat cancer, utilizes powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in the body. A wide variation of chemotherapy drugs exist that can be used on its own or in tandem with other medications. Chemotherapy can be used to ease symptoms, prepare you for other treatments, or kill hidden cancer cells. While chemotherapy may sound daunting, we’ve compiled useful information that will best prepare you for any upcoming treatments.
How does chemotherapy work?
Unlike radiation or surgery, chemotherapy works throughout the entire body. Known as a systematic treatment, it targets cells that grow and divide rapidly. Chemo circulates throughout the body’s bloodstream and has a powerful effect on cancer cells. With the strength of these chemicals, it is common for healthy cells such as hair, skin, and nail cells to be affected.
With a powerful treatment like chemotherapy, many side effects may occur. The most common include fatigue, hair loss, nausea and appetite changes. Many of these will subside rapidly, however, some may take months or even years to go away. Taking advantage of your cancer care team and discussing medicine or treatment schedules may help ease any fears you have about chemo side effects.
Precautions After Treatment
It is crucial to be proactive in keeping yourself and your loved ones safe post-treatment. There is a 48-72 hour window where your body breaks down these chemicals, which can cause concern for individuals who are exposed to them. Some helpful precautions to take are: having children use different toilets than the one you use, having your caregiver wear two pairs of throwaway gloves when coming in contact with body fluids, and using a washing machine rather than hand washing to properly sanitize your clothes.
Chemotherapy might take a toll on your mental and physical health. During this time, do not hesitate to lean on your caregivers and doctors for support. Taking advantage of your support system and implementing sanitary precautions will ensure this process will be as smooth and safe as possible.
Be sure to discuss any side effects or reactions to treatments with your healthcare providers.