During cancer treatment, you may experience a variety of side effects. Ask your care team for advice on ways to manage any side effects. It’s also important for you to alert your doctor should you notice any new symptoms or changes in symptoms. 

 

Here are 8 common side effects and tips on how to manage them:

1. Mouth Dryness
Sip water frequently and avoid drinks that can cause dehydration, such as coffee and alcohol. 

Maintaining good oral hygiene is also important. Rinse your mouth every few hours, especially after meals, with a solution made of salt and baking soda to prevent infections. Mix one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of baking soda in one cup of warm water.

Medication to help boost saliva production and prevent oral infections is available. Please consult your doctor.

 

2. Appetite Loss
Managing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and pain may help to improve your appetite.

Try eating several small meals packed with nutrient-dense foods throughout the day, drinking less fluids at mealtimes (as this can make you feel full), and having your meals in a pleasant environment.

A dietician can also offer advice on how to plan your meals and recommend nutritional supplements if necessary.

Eating Well During Cancer 

 

3. Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are rarely life-threatening. However, repeated and prolonged bouts of vomiting can lead to dehydration, which can become serious problem if you do not do anything about it.

Seek medical attention promptly if you have trouble keeping fluids down and are unable to take the medication you need. Anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medication may help.

 

4. Constipation
Not being physically active can increase your risk of having constipation. Drink more fluids and do some light exercises if possible.

Include more high-fibre foods into your diet such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, raisins, and prunes. However, a high-fibre diet may not be suitable if you have had bowel surgery or a tumour that narrows your bowels. Please consult your doctor for advice.

No matter how uncomfortable you may feel, never use laxatives or stool softeners without consulting your doctor.

 

5. Hair Loss
Share your feelings with a trusted family member, friend, or counsellor. Consider having a shorter hairstyle before treatment starts so that the transition is less dramatic. You can also opt for hats, wigs or scarves to cover up hair loss.

To learn more about the practical ways to manage physical changes, join the Look Good Feel Better Programme.

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6. Fatigue
Change your lifestyle and diet. For instance, you might feel better if you reduce your workload, stick to a nutritious diet, get enough rest or sleep, or engage in light exercise (ask your doctor if exercise is safe for you). 

Activities like reading a book, listening to music, or meditating can also help.

 

7. Pain
In most cases, cancer pain can be successfully controlled with medication. The best way to control cancer-related pain is to prevent it from developing or becoming worse. Take your pain medication as prescribed. You may also be given additional doses in the event of breakthrough pain – pain that suddenly intensifies despite treatment.

Seek medical attention promptly if you find the pain worsening or becoming unbearable. It could be an indication of a more serious condition. Your doctor may refer you to a pain management specialist.

 

8. Fertility and Sexuality
Some cancer treatments can affect your ability to have children. Your doctor can suggest ways to protect your fertility. Talk to your doctor about your concerns before you start treatment.

Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to engage in sexual intercourse and find out about the safety measures you can take. You should also have an open talk about this with your partner. You may also choose to speak to our clinical sexologist, who will be able to provide sexual health support and counselling for singles and couples. 

In most cases, there is usually no medical reason to avoid sexual intercourse during cancer treatment.