What to Expect

At Utah Cancer Specialists, we believe in the power of dependable information. The more you know about cancer and cancer treatment, the better you can confront your illness and manage your treatment.

We will be straightforward with you when it comes to your cancer treatment and everything it entails. We don’t want you to be in the dark about any aspect of your treatment, which is why we encourage you to ask all the questions you need to feel as comfortable and confident as possible about what lies ahead for you during treatment.

The following addresses concerns many patients have. This is just an overview. As always, we encourage you to consult with your physician and your care team for more information about what you can expect as you receive treatment.

I Have “Pins and Needles”

Everyone feels Peripheral Neuropathy differently. These signs and symptoms indicate injury to, or changes, in how your nerves work. Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy can be experienced as:

  • Pins and needles
  • Shards of ice
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Loss of function
  • Problems with balance

There are many ways to manage Peripheral Neuropathy:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Changes in treatment
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about treatment options

I Am So Tired

Fatigue is one of the most common and difficult side effects of both cancer and cancer treatment. Researchers believe fatigue may be caused by a chronic inflammatory state as a result of cancer. Other contributing factors may include anemia, medications and/or depression. These changes can last for many months following treatment.

Not everyone experiences fatigue as a feeling of tiredness. It can also be felt in the following ways:

  • An inability to complete all the tasks and activities you need to get done
  • An inability to perform functions at work or at home
  • Depression/Sadness – A feeling of heaviness in your life
  • A continued sense of being ill
  • Feelings of isolation or not wanting to socialize with friends and loved ones

How Can You Help Yourself?

  • A supervised and individualized low-intensity exercise program can help to boost energy, increase your sense of well being and help you return to normal activities
  • Assure a restful night’s sleep
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and caffeinated beverages
  • Use your bedroom for sleep only – do not watch television in bed
  • Don’t exercise within 3-4 hours of bedtime
  • Don’t eat within 3-4 hours of bedtime
  • Make sure your other symptoms are managed
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about your feelings

I Keep Hurting

Pain is a manageable side effect of cancer and its treatment. Pain is any discomfort that limits your ability to function. It has many causes, and there are many ways to treat cancer related pain. Everyone experiences pain differently. Pain may be experienced as:

  • Muscle, bone or joint aches
  • Lasting effects of surgery
  • Radiation or chemotherapy side effects
  • Swelling and lymphedema
  • Sense of loss, sadness or depression
  • Increased stress
  • Spiritual pain
  • How Can You Help Yourself?

There are many ways to manage pain. Your provider may recommend and prescribe different approaches to managing your pain:

  • Relaxation techniques and guided imagery
  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Cold or heat treatments, vibration and or touch
  • Acupuncture
  • Medications including pills, patches and/or pumps

I Have Diarrhea

Diarrhea is defined as more than two loose or watery stools per day. It can be caused by your cancer, cancer treatments, antibiotics or other medications, stress and other gastrointestinal disorders. Diarrhea may be worse if you are also receiving radiation treatment over your abdomen, pelvis or lower spine.

Diarrhea may result in weakness, weight loss, skin soreness and poor nutrition. Left untreated, diarrhea can cause life threatening conditions. You must call your provider if diarrhea occurs more than 3 times per day for more than one day.

How Can You Help Yourself?

  • Drink 6-8 glasses of liquids per day
  • Drink fluids such as fruit juice, Gatorade and soups. Carbonated beverages may make diarrhea worse
  • Eat frequent small amounts of low residue foods instead of three large meals. Suggested foods are eggs, rice, yogurt, broth, applesauce, broiled or baked chicken and fish, pasta, canned fruit and cooked vegetables
  • Eat plenty of foods and liquids that contain salt including broths, soups, sports drinks, crackers and pretzels
  • Avoid milks and milk products, greasy and spicy foods, very sweet foods and foods high in fiber such as whole grain bread
  • Take your anti-diarrhea medication as prescribed

Call your provider if:

  • You develop a fever over 100.4 degrees
  • You experience dizziness, lightheadedness or weakness
  • You cannot urinate for 6 hours or your urine becomes very dark in color.
  • Diarrhea becomes bloody or you are not able to keep liquids down
  • Your diarrhea lasts for longer than 24 hours

I Am Constipated

Constipation is difficult or painful movement of the bowels caused by hard, dry stools. This may occur due to cancer, chemotherapy and/or anti-nausea medications. Pain medications can cause constipation. You should take a laxative while you are taking pain medications. Do not take a fiber supplement.

You should call your provider or nurse if:

  • You do not have a bowel movement for 2 days
  • You experience abdominal bloating or pain
  • You experience lower back pain in combination with the absence of bowel movements

Sometimes constipation presents with other symptoms. These may include:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Hemorrhoid flare-ups

How Can You Help Yourself?

  • Drink plenty of fluids – about 2 liters (8 – 8 oz. glasses) a day is adequate – juice, Gatorade, water or any non-caffeinated beverage
  • If you do not have mouth sores, try warm and hot fluids (including water) which work especially well
  • Talk to your providers about a supervised and individualized low intensity exercise program
  • Eat a well-balanced diet complete with fruits, vegetables and high fiber foods
  • DO NOT use enemas or suppositories unless specifically told to do so by your provide.

I Have Unbearable Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are common and may result from cancer, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery. They reflect a change in your hormone level. You may experience:

  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Feeling of hot heat

What Can You Do?

  • Wear clothes in layers
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid caffeine and caffeinated beverages
  • Medication may be helpful, including anti-depressants
  • Some symptoms may get better with time
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about treatment options

I Am Nauseated

Nausea is the unsettled feeling in the stomach that accompanies the urge to vomit. Many things can cause nausea and vomiting:

  • Cancer
  • Tumors
  • Medication
  • Radiation therapy
  • Anxiety
  • Reflux
  • Motion sickness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores

Treatment varies by cause. It is important to talk to your provider about your nausea when it occurs. You may want to keep a brief record of you nausea patterns.

How Can You Help Yourself?

  • Take your “as needed’ medication as prescribed
  • If your “as needed” nausea medication is not working, call your provider
  • Drink plenty of fluids, a minimum of 2 liters (8-8 oz. glasses) per day is recommended
  • Eat small, frequent meals avoiding greasy, spicy or gaseous foods

If you cannot keep food or drink down for 24 hours or are experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness, please call your provider.

I Feel So Blue

A cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment will make you feel differently. You may not be able to cope with your daily activities, your cancer diagnosis or your treatment. You may feel:

  • Worthless
  • Like a burden to your loved ones
  • Low in spirits
  • Fatigued
  • A loss of appetite
  • Grouchy
  • A loss of pleasure in life
  • A need to be left alone
  • Sadness
  • Like crying
  • Like sleeping too much
  • Hungry
  • Negative
  • Angry
  • Self blame and self criticism
  • Death thoughts
  • Like hurting yourself

If you are feeling more than half of these symptoms, you may have a condition that needs to be treated. Ask for help.