Perhaps the most important thing to know before chemotherapy is that everyone responds to this cancer treatment in their own unique ways. One person’s experience might be different from the next one. No matter how many pamphlets a patient reads or documents someone peruses, those items rarely tell the whole story. Here are five things medical professionals might not tell a cancer patient.
Health insurance may not cover everything related to chemotherapy. Every patient should know what their health insurance policy does with regards to cancer treatments. Non-medical expenses, such as meals, transportation and lodging add up over time.
Chemotherapy drugs are hard on the blood, which is why doctors run a lot of blood tests during cancer treatment. Ahead of any chemotherapy appointments, people should consider eating protein-rich foods so the body’s immune cells can build up amino acids before the appointment. Patients should consult with a dietitian or doctor as to what to eat ahead of chemo treatments.
Side effects of chemotherapy are numerous, and some of them could be dramatic. A patient’s mouth might turn dry, the body could dehydrate and muscles may feel fatigued. A person’s hair could fall out over time, the immune system could suffer a lot of damage and major side effects could last several months. Every chemo patient should discuss any side effects with health care providers.
Chemo brain describes the mental haze, unclear thinking or lack of memory that comes from chemotherapy. Chemo brain affects everyone differently, but many people describe concentration problems, impaired thinking and difficulties multitasking. It’s unclear how long chemo brain lasts, but symptoms may continue for several hours following treatment. Doctors believe symptoms of chemo brain improve over time.
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Doctors may choose to implant a port in a patient’s skin during surgery. The small, plastic disc lets doctors administer chemotherapy more expediently because the port connects directly to a blood vessel close to the cancerous area. A port might stay in a patient’s body for months while the person undergoes chemotherapy.
Everyone who undergoes chemo should have a viable support network of friends, loved ones and family to rely on throughout treatment. Read about these breast cancer myths that, somehow, make it into the public consciousness.