Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Thymus Cancer
Here are some common side effects from treatment for thymus 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)
Your doctor will take samples of your blood for blood tests throughout your treatment. One thing he or she is checking is your red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. If your body does not have enough oxygen, you may feel tired. Decreased red blood cell counts can be caused by small amounts of blood loss, by chemotherapy, radiation, or by the cancer itself.
If your doctor tells you that 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 other medications that are part of your cancer treatment, such as pain medicines. Constipation may include difficult or infrequent bowel movements. It can range from mildly uncomfortable to painful. Taking pain medications often leads to constipation, so it's wise to take these preventive actions. These same steps will give you relief if you are already constipated:
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water and prune juice. Warm liquids, such as coffee and tea, may help.
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. Many drugs can cause bowel changes:
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 a "BRAT "diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).
Hair loss (alopecia)
Losing your hair, called alopecia, can be upsetting because baldness is a visible reminder that you are being treated for thymus cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause hair loss. 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.
Your doctor will take samples of your blood for blood tests throughout your treatment. One thing he or she is checking is your white blood cell count. Many types of chemotherapy can cause low white blood cell counts, as can the cancer itself. A lowered white blood cell count is called neutropenia. 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, 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 or higher, severe chills, a cough, pain, a burning sensation during urination, or any sores or redness.
Some types of chemotherapy can damage a woman's ovaries. Or it may cause menopausal symptoms in women who've not yet reached menopause. These symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and weight changes. Periods may become irregular or may stop, and you may not be able to get pregnant. For some women, the loss of a menstrual period is permanent:
Talk with your doctor about ways to manage menopausal symptoms, such as using lubricants for vaginal dryness, doing mild exercise, and talking with a therapist about mood swings or signs of depression.
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:
Avoid alcohol and mouthwashes containing alcohol because they may irritate the sores. Choose foods that are soft, wet, bland, and easy to swallow.
Nausea or vomiting
Nausea or vomiting as a result of chemotherapy or radiation treatment may range from barely noticeable to severe. It may help you to understand the different types of nausea:
Anticipatory nausea and vomiting. This are learned from previous experiences with vomiting. As you prepare for the next dose of chemotherapy, you may anticipate that nausea and vomiting will occur as it did previously, which triggers the actual reflex.
Most nausea can be prevented. To prevent nausea, take these actions:
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 or were nauseated from stress. These might be bland foods, sour candy, pickles, dry crackers, ginger ale, flat soda, or others.
Skin dryness or irritation
This may be a side effect of radiation therapy:
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.
If you must shave the treated area, use only an electric shaver, because you are less likely to cut yourself with it. Don't use lotion before shaving. And don't use hair-removal products. Both can irritate your skin.
Thinking and remembering problems
You may have mild problems with concentration and memory during and after chemotherapy. Being tired can make this worse. Taking these actions may help:
Tiredness is a very common side effect from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It is also a symptom of anemia, or a low red blood cell count. Or it can be caused from a B12 vitamin or iron deficiency, which your doctor may find through a blood test. Whatever the cause, you may feel only slightly tired or you may suffer from extreme fatigue.
Fatigue can last four to six weeks after treatment ends. Taking these actions may help increase your energy level: