Chemotherapy, At times referred simply as “chemo”kills fast-growing cancer cells. It may be given before or after surgery. These are sometimes referred to as “anti-cancer” drugs. Chemotherapy is used for a variety of purposes like to cure a specific cancer;control tumor growth when cure is not possible;shrink tumors before surgery or radiation therapy;relieve symptoms (such as pain); anddestroy microscopic cancer cells that may be present after the known tumor is removed by surgery (called adjuvant therapy).
The side effects depend mainly on which drugs are administered and how much.
Cells in hair roots
Chemotherapy may cause hair loss. If you lose your hair, it will grow back after treatment, but the colour and texture may be changed.
Similarly when drugs lower the levels of healthy blood cells, youare more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, and feel very weak and tired. There are also medicines that can help your body make new blood cells.
Cells in digestive tract
Chemotherapy can cause a poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth and lip sores. But again medicines help with these problems and they usually go away when treatment ends.
Ray of hope
The good news is your doctor will suggest ways to control many of these side effects.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cellsby damaging their DNA (the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information and pass it from one generation to the next). Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die. When the damaged cells die, they are broken down and eliminated by the body’s natural processes.
How does radiotherapy work?
The radiation may be delivered by a machine outside the body (external-beam radiotherapy), or may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiotherapy, also called brachytherapy).Systemic radiation therapy uses radioactive substances, such as radioactive iodine, that travel in the blood to kill cancer cells.
When does a patient get radiotherapy?
A patient may receive radiation therapy before, during, or after surgery. Some patients may receive radiotherapy, without surgery or other treatments. Some patients may receive radiotherapyand chemotherapy at the same time. Many a times it is given before surgery, which is called pre-operativeradiation. Radiotherapy given during surgery is called intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT).
Side-effects of radiotherapy
Radiotherapy can cause both acuteand chronic side effects. Acute side effects occur during treatment, and chronic side effects occur months or even years after treatment ends. Acute radiation side effects include skin irritation or damage at regions exposed to the radiation beams. Most acute effects disappear after treatment ends. Fatigue is a common side effect of radiation therapy regardless of which part of the body is treated. Medications are available to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting during treatment.
After cancer treatment, patients receive regular follow-up care from their oncologists to monitor their health and check for possible cancer recurrence.
Physiotherapy is of great benefit to cancer patients in terms of pain management.It plays a key role to play in the management of patients throughout the cancer treatment. And physiotherapists have an equally important role in the management of cancer pain with their specific skills which enable them to be patient-focused and holistic. Therapists utilise strategies which aim toimprove patient functioning and quality of life.
Relieving cancer pain
The main aim of physiotherapy is to relieve pain and improve function andquality of life using treatments based on the best available evidence. Pain-management is patient-centred, collaborative and restorative. It involves the family of the patient to ensure aco-ordinated approach to treatment planning and goal-setting. The patient’s engagement in thetherapy partnership is vital.The physiotherapist uses different interventions like massage, postural adjustments, temperature therapy (hot and cold treatments) and therapeutic exercise to manage pain.
Physiotherapy in oncology
CRF or cancer related fatigue, is a widely spread consequence of cancer which can affect patients between and during their treatment. Hence, it is a challenge to make the patients exercise to maintain their health and functionality despite CRF. Physiotherapists have an exercise programme for patients to work the patient and help them stick to it despite CRF and the cancer itself.
The role of physiotherapy in cancer treatment value-adds to the care of patients in the palliative stage of cancer.
A stoma is an artificial opening in the abdomen to collect waste (either faeces or urine). Under this process you will no longer use a toilet when you open your bowels or urinate, as any waste products will pass into and be collected in a reservoir bag or pouch, on the outside of your body.The size and shape of the stoma will also depend on the type of operation.
There are several different types of pouch available to fit over your stoma. They are all designed to fit discretely under your clothing, be easy to change, and not leak or smell.It is a good idea to get into a routine for changing the pouch. If you have an ileostomy or colostomy, you may find that at certain times of the day the pouch is more active than at others such as shortly after a meal. Rather than change it then, choose a time when it is relatively inactive, such as first thing in the morning. You won't be able to control when you have bowel movements but the pouch usually has to be changed twice per day (but this can depend on the type of pouch you use).
You may be advised to eat slowly and not talk and eat at the same time, to prevent swallowing too much air, which could cause wind.
A number of different protective pastes, membranes and powders are availableto care for your skin around stoma.
It is best to carry pouch spares in your hand luggage when you travel. If you are planning a long journey, it is best to irrigate your pouch just before you leave, and again when you arrive.
Word of advice
You can expect to return to your normal daily activities after you have fully recovered from your stoma operation.