Coping with Chemo: How to Deal with Side Effects

Health & Medical Blog

Chemotherapy drugs are used to fight many different types of cancer because they kill rapidly-growing cancer cells quickly. As chemotherapy drugs travel through your bloodstream, they can affect healthy cells as well, which can lead to side effects. 


One of the most common side effects of chemo is nausea. Switch to several small meals per day rather than two or three larger meals to help minimize nausea and vomiting. Choose healthy foods such as vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, and avoid fried and greasy foods that may upset your stomach more.

Try drinking water or juice before or after your meals rather than taking liquids with your food to minimize vomiting after you eat, and avoid strong-smelling foods that can contribute to nausea.

Appetite Changes and Difficulty Eating

Many chemo patients lose weight during treatment due to changes in their appetites and difficulty eating. Plan your meals and snacks for the day in advance so you don't have to think about what to eat at meal and snack times. 

Keep convenient high-protein snacks such as nuts or peanut butter and crackers with you when you're away from home for long periods. Protein can help repair tissue damage from chemo. 

Sip water throughout the day to help keep your mouth moist and avoid painful sores that can make it harder to eat. If you have difficulty swallowing, try milkshakes with protein powder and add liquids to solid food, such as sauces and gravies, to make them easier to eat.

Medications and Vitamins

Follow your healthcare team's directions when it comes to taking other medications, vitamins, and supplements during chemotherapy treatment. Even over-the-counter drugs can interact with chemo drugs, so it's important to inform your cancer treatment team of everything you take.

Anti-nausea drugs are often prescribed to chemotherapy patients to help them eat a healthy diet and keep food down. Some chemo patients take anxiety medication, such as benzodiazepines or cannabinoids, to help with appetite and mood during treatment.

Brain Fog

Many chemo patients struggle with mental fogginess or "chemo brain" during treatment. Try keeping a planner with you to write down daily tasks, appointments, and to-do lists. Minimize distractions as much as possible so you can focus on one thing at a time and give each task your full attention.

Keep your mind sharp by reading, doing puzzles, or taking a class to learn new information or skills to help minimize the fatigue and fog that often accompanies chemo.

Keep your healthcare team informed about your side effects throughout your treatment. Make sure to discuss new or worsening side effects with your doctor.

To learn more about cancer treatment options, contact an oncology center in your area.


6 September 2022

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