Caring for yourself while on cancer treatment

Undergoing treatment for cancer can take its toll on your body. That’s why it’s very important to take extra care of yourself during this time. Beside the physical benefit, it can help you feel more in control of your body and how you react to your body’s response to the treatment.

Here are some tips to take better care of yourself while on treatment: 

1)  Wash your hands

One of the best ways to keep yourself from getting sick is to keep your hands clean. You should also encourage friends and family members to keep their hands clean.

2)  Oral hygiene

The medicine that you are taking to treat your cancer influences the way the cells in your body make new cells. When the healthy cells in your mouth are affected, this can lead to several side effects.

Here are a few things that you can do to keep your mouth healthy:

  • Brush your teeth when you wake up, before you go to bed, and after every meal
  • Use a soft toothbrush
  • Get a new toothbrush every 3 months
  • Use the mouthwash your doctor or nurse recommends to avoid getting mouth sores
  • If you do develop mouth sores, speak to your doctor about whether to substitute mouthwash for salt or plain water mouth rinses, as this will cause less discomfort
  • Check with your doctor or nurse before flossing your teeth because your chemotherapy may increase your chances of bleeding when you floss
  • Try to stay away from things that may irritate your mouth: spicy food, garlic, onion, vinegar, crunchy foods, and acidic drinks (orange and grapefruit juice)

3)  Skin changes, skin care and bathing

The medicines that you take to treat your cancer may cause your skin to change in different ways. These changes, like dry skin and irritation, can lead to openings in the skin where germs can enter, and infection can set in. Making a few changes to your daily hygiene routine as soon as chemotherapy begins and throughout your treatment can help to keep your skin healthy and lower your risk for infection. An important part of this routine is bathing.

The following tips below will help protect your skin from damage and infection:

  • Bathe every day and use warm water
  • Avoid soaking in spas or hot tubs
  • Use a mild soap for bathing
  • Use a soft towel to gently wash skin
  • Be sure to clean feet, groin, underarms, and other sweaty areas well
  • Do not rub skin with the towel, instead pat it dry
  • Do not share bath towel with other family members
  • Use unscented lotion or moisturizing cream on skin after it has dried completely

4)  Protecting skin from cuts, scrapes, injury and infection

While you are going through chemotherapy, your body will not be able to fight off germs as well as it normally would. At every step of your treatment, it is important to protect yourself from getting an infection. One of the ways you can do this is by protecting your skin from cuts and scrapes, because these are easy ways for germs to enter your body.  

If you follow a few simple steps, you can protect yourself from injury and infection:

  • Be careful when handling sharp items such as scissors, knives or blades
  • Use caution when exercising to avoid grazing or scraping your skin
  • Use caution when walking on wet or slippery surfaces to avoid falling and scraping your skin
  • Do not cut, tear, or bite cuticles
  • Do not squeeze or scratch pimples
  • Wear clothing that is appropriate for the type of activity you plan to do (wearing long sleeves and gloves when cycling)

When to call your Doctor or Nurse

Any time you change a bandage you should check for signs of infection. Call the doctor or nurse if you notice any of the following:

  • Drainage, especially if it is yellow in colour
  • Odour coming from the wound
  • Redness in skin around the wound
  • Swelling of the skin around the wound
  • Pain or tenderness

 At CHOC we aim to provide the best possible support for children with cancer and life-threatening blood disorders, and their families.

 Contact us to find out more about getting involved with CHOC, or to request more information.

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