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Coping with Cancer

  • Introduction

    Being diagnosed with cancer can be very frightening. There is the fear that the cancer treatment will not be successful, that the cancer will return, that it will be painful, and that you may not survive. All of these feelings are normal and very understandable.

    It will assist your recovery if you have a positive attitude towards your diagnosis and treatment. Some people find that prayer or meditation helps. Others enjoy the company of people with whom they can share their feelings and explore the meaning of their experience with the illness. All agree that what matters most is love, laughter and taking pleasure in the simple things in life.

    • Many people with cancer have fatigue. Fatigue may affect how you feel about yourself, your daily activities, your relationships with others and whether you can continue with cancer treatment. Symptoms of fatigue may be physical, psychological or emotional. Treatments for fatigue in cancer include managing its symptoms and providing emotional support. Some symptom-related treatments may include adjusting the amount of pain medication, giving blood transfusions or growth factors, adding iron and vitamins to your diet or prescribing anti-depressants.
    • Not everyone with cancer has pain, but if you do have pain, there are many ways to treat it. Although pain cannot always be relieved completely, treatment will reduce the discomfort for most people with cancer. There are many different types of pain medication, and different types of pain require different types of medicine. Management of cancer pain is individualised, and your doctor may prescribe a combination of medicines for your pain. To start with, regular pain medication is given, but if the pain lasts or increases, your doctor may ‘step up’ to stronger pain medication.
    • Fever can be a challenge for cancer patients. The main causes are infections, tumour cells (which can produce substances that cause fever reactions), graft-versus-host-disease (in which transplanted tissue attacks your own tissue) and some medications. Along with treating the cause of the fever, some comfort measures may also be helpful in relieving the discomfort of chills and sweats. During periods of fever, drink plenty of liquids, remove excess clothing and bed linens, and bathe regularly with lukewarm water to provide relief. During periods of chills, replace damp blankets with warm dry blankets, keep away from drafts and adjust the room temperature to improve your comfort. Your nurse or caregiver will help you do this.
    • Constipation and diarrhoea can be caused by your cancer or by the treatment. For constipation, prevention with laxatives is the best treatment. If you have diarrhoea, your doctor will identify and treat the problems causing it. For example, if your diarrhoea is caused by laxatives taken to prevent constipation, you may need to reduce the dose or stop taking the medication.
    • Although treatments for cancer are continually improving, nausea and vomiting continue to be of concern. Treatment for anticipatory nausea and vomiting is often successful when the symptoms are treated early. The following methods may reduce your symptoms:
      1. Guided imagery
      2. Hypnosis
      3. Relaxation
      4. Behavioural modification techniques
      5. Distraction (such as playing video games)

    Acute and delayed nausea and vomiting are most commonly treated with anti-nausea drugs.


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    There are 33 SpecialistsView All