HCA Midwest Health - March 01, 2024

You are probably aware that chemotherapy is one of the most common cancer treatments, and that it may cause side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, swelling, and digestive problems. But did you know how important it is to be proactive about keeping your body and mind strong during treatment? Suman Kambhampati, MD, board-certified in Hematology/Medical Oncology and the clinical program director for the Sarah Cannon Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program at Research Medical Center – a part of HCA Midwest Health – provides six ways to keep your body healthy during chemotherapy treatment:

  1. Boost your nutrition. Dr. Kambhampati recommends eating a healthy diet helps you deal with side effects and fight infections. If you experience nausea, lack of appetite, or other eating problems, discuss solutions with your doctor or nurse navigator.
  2. Stay well hydrated. Chemotherapy can be dehydrating. He recommends drinking plenty of water before and after treatment helps your body process chemotherapy drugs and flush the excess out of your system.
  3. Tackle physical changes. If your hair starts falling out, go shopping for a wig or buy a few stylish hats to keep your head warm. Ask your nurse navigator or oncology infusion center nurse for information about community and/or national resources for wigs or headwear. Minimize mouth sores by brushing, with a soft toothbrush, after every meal and rinsing your mouth several times a day, but avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol as these may be irritating. Soothe dry skin with body lotion and lip balm.
  4. Avoid germs. Dr. Kambhampati says because chemotherapy affects normal cells as well as abnormal ones, your immune system becomes weakened. Avoid bacteria and viruses by washing hands frequently and keeping them away from your face. Also, stay out of crowds and only consume well-washed fresh foods and fully cooked meats.
  5. Keep exercising. Physical activity—even as little as three 10-minute walks a day—can improve your appetite and emotional state. Ask your doctor what’s safe for you.
  6. Get your R&R. On the days after treatment, enjoy restful, relaxing activities while your body recovers. Dr. Kambhampati says to combat fatigue, get seven or eight hours of sleep each night and maintain consistent sleep-wake times.

The doctors and support team at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health are with our patients for every step of a cancer journey, with experience and expertise in all kinds of cancers. Our physicians are board certified in medical oncology, radiation oncology and other specialties supported by experienced nurses, counselors, dietitians, social workers and others to partner with you. Learn more on our oncology page.