Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Penile Cancer
It’s likely that you will have physical concerns since your treatment may cause side effects. Here are some common side effects from treatment for penile cancer and how to ease them. You may not have all of these. We’ve listed them in alphabetical order so you can find help when you need it.
Anemia (low red blood cell levels)
Throughout your treatment, your doctor will take small samples of your blood for testing. One thing he or she is checking is the level of your red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. If your body does not have this oxygen, you may feel tired. Decreased red blood cell counts lead to a condition called anemia. It can be caused by small amounts of blood loss, by chemotherapy, radiation, or by the cancer itself.
If your doctor says you have anemia, take these actions to feel better:
Anxiety and depression
Many people may feel blue, anxious, or distressed after being told they have cancer. These feelings may continue or come back throughout treatment.
Taking these actions may ease your mental stress:
This may be a side effect of chemotherapy or some pain medicines. Constipation, which includes difficult or infrequent bowel movements, can range from mildly uncomfortable to painful. Taking pain medications can lead to constipation, so it’s wise to take these preventive actions. These same steps will give you relief if you are already constipated:
Eat foods high in fiber, such as cereals, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
This may be a side effect of chemotherapy. Diarrhea, which includes loose or frequent bowel movements, or both, may lead to dehydration if you don’t take these precautions:
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).
Hair loss (alopecia)
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause hair loss, or alopecia. Losing your hair can be upsetting because baldness is a visible reminder that you are being treated for cancer. Keep in mind that your hair will probably grow back after treatment.
Try these coping tips:
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’ll be ready with head coverings, if you choose to use them.
Increased infections (neutropenia)
Throughout your treatment your doctor will take small samples of your blood for testing. One thing he or she is checking is your level of white blood cells. Many types of chemotherapy can cause low white blood cell counts, as can the cancer itself. Without enough white blood cells, your body may not be able to fight infection. If your doctor tells you that your white blood cell count is low, you may have a condition called neutropenia. Take these actions to stay healthy:
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs of infection: a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, severe chills, a cough, pain, a burning sensation during urination, or any sores or redness.
Mouth sores (mucositis)
Some types of chemotherapy may cause mouth sores. These may hurt and make eating an unpleasant experience.
To prevent sores in your mouth, take these actions:
To ease the pain if you get sores in your mouth, take these actions:
Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), as directed, if necessary. Avoid aspirin products.
Nausea or vomiting
Nausea or vomiting as a result of chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer may range from barely noticeable to severe. In order to help ease this side effect, it may help you to understand the different types of nausea:
To prevent nausea, take these actions. Most nausea can be prevented:
To help ease nausea or vomiting if you have it, try these tips:
Try eating foods and drinking beverages that were easy to take or made you feel better when you’ve had the flu. These might be bland foods, sour candy, dry crackers, ginger ale, flat soda, or others.
Numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in your hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy)
If you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hands and feet, you may have nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. Other signs of this problem are ringing in your ears or feeling hot or cold. These side effects may be caused by some types of chemotherapy. If you have symptoms such as these, take these precautions to protect yourself:
Skin dryness or irritation
This may be a side effect of radiation therapy. Here are some tips on how to cope:
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 two hours after treatment because they may cause irritation.
Thinking and remembering problems
You may have mild problems with concentration and memory during and after chemotherapy. Being tired can make this worse. Take these actions to help:
Tiredness or fatigue
Tiredness or fatigue is a very common symptom of cancer, as well as a side effect from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. You may feel only slightly tired, or you may suffer from extreme fatigue.
Taking these actions may help increase your energy level. Fatigue can last for months after treatment ends: