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Chemotherapy – Preparation, Side Effects and Other Concerns

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Chemotherapy (chemo for short) is a procedure that kills any cancer cells left in the body after the doctor has surgically removed any tumors. Doctors and nurses are there to help the patient through this process. Of course, there will be questions before, during and after this procedure. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask any of your medical team – they are there to assist in any way.

According to BreastCancer.org, there are several things patients should do even before cancer treatment starts. Some of them are:

To avoid any possible infection, get any dental check-ups
Get any heart tests your doctor recommends
Ask for help around the house due to the common side effect of fatigue
Join a support group
Check to see what should or shouldn’t you eat the day of treatment
Tell your doctor what vitamins, supplements and/or over-the-counter and prescription medications you take
If hair loss concerns you, talk to your doctor about what to do to prepare for this
Talk to your doctor about how to maintain your routine while in chemo

Forms of Chemotherapy Medications

Chemo medicines come in different forms:

Intravenously (IV) - a slow drip through a thin needle
Injection – a single shot in the muscle of arm or leg or in the fatty part of stomach.
By mouth – as a pill
Through a port – a small disc made of plastic or metal that is inserted through the chest; medicine is administered through a needle that fits into this port
Through a catheter – a soft tube inserted into vein while the other end stays outside of body; a needle fits into catheter when medicine is administered

Side Effects

Sometimes when chemo destroys the bad cells, it destroys the good cells as well. These good cells can be located in your blood, mouth, intestinal tract, nose, nails, vagina and hair. It is important to remember that each individual’s side effects will be different depending on the chemotherapy regimen prescribed, the amount of medication given, the length of treatment and the general health of the patient.

Most side effects cease after the course is complete. However, there may be some side effects that may linger for several months or longer. When deciding on your particular chemotherapy regimen, your doctor will prepare you for what side effects you will likely have and how to ease or cope with each one. The most common side effects are as listed below:

Anemia/low red blood cell count
Fertility issues
Hair changes
Memory loss
Menopause and menopausal symptoms
Mouth and throat sores
Nail changes
Taste and smell changes
Vaginal dryness
Weight changes

Other Concerns

It cannot be emphasized enough to talk with your doctor if you have any other concerns or fears. For instance, if you have fears of losing your hair or of the pain, each type of fear can be addressed and approached in a different manner. But your doctor or medical team cannot help you unless you communicate. That’s what they are there for.

Best in Health

Resources: BreastCancer.org

Dita Faulkner is a freelance writer and poet. Please preview her poetry at:

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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