Palliative Care During Chemotherapy

If you have a loved one who is undergoing treatment for cancer, you’ll probably be learning more than you ever thought you’d need to know about cancer treatment methods and side effects. A common treatment technique for cancer is chemotherapy.

About Chemotherapy and Side Effects

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment method that uses drugs to target and destroy cancer cells in the body. However, these drugs are powerful and often, treatment comes with strong side effects.

It’s important to understand that chemotherapy has developed and advanced greatly in recent years, and some styles of treatment are much less invasive than you might be picturing. Talking with your loved one’s physician about the treatment plans and types of therapy will help you know what to expect. Chemotherapy may be in the form of traditional chemotherapy, cytotoxic chemotherapy, or standard chemotherapy. One approach that is increasingly used is targeted treatment, which minimizes the collateral damage these powerful drugs may cause. In any case, side effects of chemotherapy can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Nervous system effects such as weakness, tingling, or numbness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Lowered immune function, causing increased risk of infections
  • And more...

Caring for a Loved One During Chemo

There are two aspects you need to be aware of while caring for someone undergoing chemo: First, you’ll need to be able to help manage the side effects listed above. This will mean having a plan for various possible issues, including:

  • Anti-nausea medication, a plan to serve small portions of food throughout the day, and ways to ensure proper hydration.
  • Easy access from the bed to the bathroom, or equipment that serves the same function, with handicap accessibility as necessary.
  • Special care to prevent germs and infection, including washing your own hands and taking precautions when people come to visit.

There’s one more thing you need to prepare for: guarding your own exposure to chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy may be administered in a clinic, or at home with oral medications. In any case, these chemicals usually stay in the body for over 24 hours. Therefore, it’s important to prevent contact with bodily fluids which may still carry the drug. Take these precautions:

  • Use gloves when cleaning up urine, stool, or vomit.
  • Flush the toilet with the lid closed.
  • Wash soiled linens as soon as possible and separate from other laundry items.
  • Dispose of soiled items such as adult diapers or pads in sealed bags.

Palliative Care for Non-Chronic Cancer

People don’t always understand that palliative care (treatment that improves the quality of life) is available for you, even if you’re not in a situation where you need hospice care. Here at Wings of Hope, we help hundreds of families throughout Phoenix to cope with the effects of cancer treatment. Whatever stage of treatment you’re in, we can help you plan your space, organize the technicalities, and know what to expect. Contact us today to learn how we can help with palliative care during chemotherapy, or any other kind of cancer treatment.