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Chemotherapy: Meaning, Side Effects and Safety Measures

Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. It can start from almost anywhere in the human body, comprising trillions of cells. There are many types of cancer; some of the body’s cells divide abnormally and spread into the surrounding tissues.

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill the fast-growing cancer cells in your body. However, this therapy is more effective in treating cancer since the cancer cells grow and multiply much more quickly than the other cells of our body.

Although it is an effective way to treat many types of cancer, chemotherapy treatment also carries many risks and other side effects. Some chemotherapy side effects are mild and treatable, while others can cause serious complications.

Reasons for doing Chemotherapy

There are several reasons for which chemotherapy is performed:

  • To cure cancer without implying other treatments. We can use chemotherapy as the primary or sole treatment for cancer.
  • After other treatments, to kill hidden cancer cells. After performing other treatments, such as surgery, we can use chemotherapy to kill any cancer cells that might remain in the body.
  • To prepare you for other treatments. Chemotherapy can shrink a tumor so that other treatments, such as radiation and surgery, become possible. Doctors call this neo-adjuvant therapy.
  • To remove the signs and symptoms. Chemotherapy helps remove the signs and symptoms of cancer, thus killing the cancer cells. Doctors call this palliative chemotherapy.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy Treatment

The common side effects of chemotherapy drugs are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Soreness inside the mouth
  • Pain
  • Colour of the nails changes
  • Constipation
  • Easy bruising
  • Bleeding, etc.

The long-lasting side effects may include:

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    Safety Measures to Consider after Chemotherapy Treatment

    Chemotherapy is a strong treatment, so it is safe for people without cancer to avoid direct contact with these drugs. Oncology nurses and doctors wear gloves, goggles, gowns, or masks because they are exposed to chemotherapy drugs every day. 

    When the treatment session is over, these items are immediately disposed of in special bags or bins. So, if you follow these safety measures, it will reduce your exposure to chemotherapy drugs at home. The steps are:

    Use a plastic bucket

    If you need to vomit, then use a plastic bowl or bucket. Please don’t use the bowl or bucket for anything else and throw it out after your final chemotherapy session.

    Clean up spills

    Keep a supply of cleaning cloths, paper towels, and disposable waterproof gloves. If any fluids spilled onto the household surfaces during the treatment session, put on a pair of waterproof gloves, soak up the spill with paper towels, and clean the area with a disposable cloth and soapy water. Put the used gloves, clothes, and paper towels in a disposable plastic bag, then put the bag in the bin.

    Take care when going to the toilet

    For a week after a chemotherapy treatment session, sit down to use the toilet. Put the lid down before flushing to avoid splashing. However, if you have an infection or composting system, check with the toilet manufacturer whether this is safe.

    Wear disposable gloves

    During the week after a treatment session, wear disposable waterproof gloves when you’re handling containers, clothing, or bedsheets soiled with vomit or other body fluids. Put the gloves in a disposable plastic bag and throw them after use.

    Handling laundry carefully

    Wash all the items covered with body fluids, such as clothing, bedsheets, and towels, separately from the other laundry. Use the longest washing machine cycle and wash twice.

    Put medicines in a safe place

    Store all tablets, capsules, or injections in a clean and safe place as directed by your oncologist or pharmacist. They often need special storage to keep them effective and safe. Keep them out of reach of your children, and do not store them in a pill organizer with other medicines.

    Make sure you regularly meet and go for a check-up with your cancer doctor during chemotherapy treatment. The oncologist will ask about any side effects you’re experiencing.

    You may also undergo scans and other tests to monitor your cancer cells during chemotherapy treatment, depending on your situation. These tests can give your doctor an idea of how your cancer responds to treatment, and your treatment may be adjusted accordingly.

    If you wish to know about chemotherapy treatment in detail, you can book an appointment to talk to our experts.

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