5 Takeaways to Managing Side Effects
Posted on September 7, 2016
Our Conversations Webinar Series is an opportunity to link national experts in colorectal cancer and other related fields to you, right in the comfort of your own home. The programs are designed to empower you to play a leading role in your healthcare management.
Last month, our webinar focused on working with your doctor to manage your side effects. Couldn’t make the webinar? Get our Top 5 Takeaways below and watch the replay.
- Gather information from your provider about what side effects to expect and options to manage them.
First step is to be an informed consumer and ask questions of your medical provider about what side effects to expect from the specific treatment you are receiving. Do not hesitate to speak up and discuss distress or discomfort from side effects as there are options to decrease them.
- Pain (including neuropathy) can be from cancer itself or treatment.
Adequate management of pain depends on knowing what is causing it, as this leads the provider to prescribe the most effective type of pain medication. It sometimes requires more than one type of pain medication to be maximally effective. Non-medication modalities can also be effective for pain relief. Pain and numbness from neuropathy may decrease or subside after treatment but in some cases it can remain and become chronic. Medications WILL NOT change numbness or decreased sensation– they only help with the pain. Improved sensation only comes with nerve regeneration which may or may not occur over time (nerves regenerate at an inch a year). There are no supplements or medications that regenerate nerves.
- Nausea/Vomiting can be from treatment or disease and management depends on what is causing the nausea.
Choice of what medication to use depends on the cause; sometimes more than one anti-nausea medication needs to be used. Be aware that some of the medications may cause a little drowsiness so if you are already fatigued so let your provider know, as they may want to avoid prescribing these. Non-medication modalities may include eating a bland diet, adding probiotics, wearing Seabands, using ginger-containing products such as candy or ginger ale.
- Bowel problems — For diarrhea, schedule antidiarrheal medications if needed and/or consider adding 1 packet of Metamucil daily which bulks up stool by absorbing water and slows down diarrhea.
Some foods such as bananas may also slow down diarrhea. For constipation, most agents are over-the-counter so be proactive and begin taking stool softener with a bowel stimulant daily to avoid becoming constipated. Adjust medications up or down based on efficacy.
- Fatigue can result from a variety of factors and there may be underlying correctable causes which need to be investigated.
Best treatment to counteract fatigue is exercise itself. There are some medications classified as stimulants that may help fatigue but these may be difficult to obtain or not approved by one’s insurance. More importantly, however, is that the overwhelming evidence on fatigue supports exercise above all else: 5 days/week of low-grade aerobic exercise along with 2-3 days per week of some resistance training. Some supplements may be reasonable to try (e.g., rhodiola, ashwaganda, or ginseng) but should never be used without consulting with your medical provider.
Did you have questions from the webinar? Take a look at the Q&A to find the answers to your questions!
Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about colon cancer screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help.
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