Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Uterine Cancer
After beginning treatment for uterine cancer, it’s likely that you will have physical concerns. After all, the cancer itself may cause symptoms, and your treatment may also cause side effects. Which symptoms you notice will depend on your treatment, and your treatment will depend on if and how much the uterine cancer has spread. Not every possible side effect will happen to you. They are listed alphabetically below, so you can find help easily when you need it.
Anemia (Low red blood cell levels)
Throughout your treatment, your doctor will test your blood. One thing he or she is checking for is your red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. If your body does not have this oxygen, you may feel tired, look pale, and have shortness of breath. Decreased red blood cell counts can be caused by small amounts of blood loss, by chemotherapy or radiation, or by the cancer itself.
Take these actions to feel better:
Anxiety and depression
Many people may feel blue, anxious, or distressed after being told they have cancer. You may also have these feelings if you were told that you needed to have a hysterectomy. These feelings are normal and may continue or come back during your recovery from surgery or during other treatments:
People who eat well during cancer treatment maintain their strength better, are more active, and are better able to ward off infection. It’s important to remember that your body needs energy to heal itself. Maintaining your weight is a good way to know if you are giving your body the energy it needs. The problem is that side effects of treatment, especially chemotherapy, can make you not want to eat. Some chemotherapy treatments can change the way food tastes to you. Hormone therapy can also cause appetite changes. Ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian if you are having trouble eating or maintaining your weight.
Also, try these tips to stimulate your desire to eat:
If you can, eat foods high in protein several times a day. These foods include milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, meat, fish, eggs, beans, peanut butter, and nuts. Protein helps build and repair tissue, and cancer treatments cause you to use more protein than usual.
If you are not already overweight, eat high-calorie foods to help you maintain your weight, such as margarine or butter, sugar, honey, jams, jellies, cream cheese, dried fruit, gravies or sauces, mayonnaise, and salad dressing.
Get plenty of fluids. In addition to water, fruit juices, and other liquids, try gelatin, pudding, soups, frozen fruit bars, and ice cream.
Bleeding from the vagina may be a side effect of surgery to remove your uterus. It’s normal to have vaginal bleeding or brownish spotting for 1 to 3 weeks after surgery and some spotting for up to about 6 weeks after surgery. If you have more bleeding than this, you should let your doctor know. Here’s what you can do to cope with bleeding:
This may be a side effect of chemotherapy or some pain medicines used after surgery. Constipation, which includes difficult or infrequent bowel movements, can range from mildly uncomfortable to painful. Taking pain medications can lead to constipation, so it’s wise to take preventive actions. These same steps will give you relief if you are already constipated:
Eat foods high in fiber, such as cereals, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Diarrhea includes loose or frequent bowel movements, or both. It may be a side effect of external radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Many drugs can cause bowel changes, too. Diarrhea may lead to dehydration if you don’t take these precautions:
Avoid gas-producing vegetables, dried fruit, fiber cereals, seeds, popcorn, nuts, corn, and dried beans.
Eat low-residue, low-fiber foods such as those included in the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).
Hair loss (alopecia)
This can be a side effect of chemotherapy. Losing your hair can be upsetting because thinning or baldness is a visible reminder that you are being treated for cancer. Keep in mind that your hair will grow back after treatment.
Try these coping tips:
Think about getting a wig, hat, or scarf before your hair loss starts. That way, you can get a wig that matches your hair, and you’ll be ready with head coverings, if you choose to use them.
You may have hot flashes, as well as other symptoms of menopause, if you have surgery to remove your uterus and ovaries. A hot flash is also called a hot flush. It is a sudden rush of warmth to the face, neck, upper chest, and back — with or without sweating. It can last for a few seconds to an hour or more. To ease them, try these tips:
Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
Insomnia is a common symptom that can be caused by anxiety, depression, or your cancer treatment. Use these tips to help improve the quality of your sleep:
Mouth sores (mucositis)
Some types of chemotherapy may cause mouth sores. Mouth sores may hurt and make eating an unpleasant experience.
To help prevent sores in your mouth, take these actions:
If you get sores in your mouth, take these actions:
Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), if necessary. If this doesn't control the pain, talk to your doctor about stronger pain medicines you can try.
Nausea or vomiting
Nausea or vomiting as a result of chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer may range from barely noticeable to severe. It may help you to understand the different types of nausea:
Anticipatory nausea and vomiting. These are learned from previous experiences with vomiting. As you prepare for the next dose of chemotherapy, you may anticipate that nausea and vomiting will occur as it did previously, which triggers the actual reflex.
To help prevent nausea, take these actions. Most nausea can be prevented:
To help ease nausea or vomiting if you have it, try these tips:
Try eating foods and drinking beverages that helped make you feel better when you’ve had the flu or were nauseous in the past. These may be bland foods, hard candy, dry crackers, ginger ale, flat soda, or others.
Neutropenia (low white blood cell levels)
Throughout your treatment, your doctor will test your blood. One thing he or she is checking is your white blood cell count. Without enough white blood cells, your body may not be able to fight infection. Many types of chemotherapy can cause low white blood cell counts. If your doctor tells you that your white blood cell count is low, take these actions to stay healthy:
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs of infection: a temperature of 100.5°F (38°C) or higher, severe chills, a cough, pain, a burning sensation during urination, or any sores or redness.
Numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in your hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy)
If you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hands and feet, you may have nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. Some types of chemotherapy are known to cause this. Other signs of this problem are ringing in your ears or trouble feeling hot or cold. If you have such symptoms, tell your doctor right away and take these precautions to protect yourself:
You may have pain from the cancer itself, from surgery, or from radiation treatments. Try these tips to ease the pain:
Take your pain medications regularly; don’t wait for your pain to become severe. (Take steps, as listed above, to avoid constipation, a common side effect of some pain medications.)
A change in your sex drive or problems with vaginal scarring, dryness, or tightness can all affect your sexual well-being. These can be caused by the hysterectomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy. Some effects may resolve over time. Your doctor and nurse can give you suggestions for dealing with all these effects on your sexual health. Be sure to ask if you have any questions or problems.
Taking these actions may help you cope with any changes:
Skin dryness or irritation
This may be a side effect of some hormone therapies, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy:
Ask your doctor or nurse what kind of lotion you can use to moisturize and soothe your skin. Don’t use any lotion, soap, deodorant, sunblock, cologne, cosmetics, or powder on your skin within two hours after treatment because they may cause additional irritation.
Tiredness is a very common symptom and side effect from surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. You may feel only slightly tired, or you may suffer from extreme fatigue. Be sure to tell your doctor about this.
Fatigue can last even after treatment ends. Taking these actions may help increase your energy level:
Trouble thinking and remembering
You may have mild problems with concentration and memory during and after hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Being tired can make this worse.
Taking these actions may help:
Vaginal dryness and other vaginal problems
Vaginal dryness and discharge can result from having a hysterectomy if the ovaries are also removed (this leads to menopause). In addition to vaginal dryness, lowered estrogen levels may cause women to have vaginal thinning and difficult or painful intercourse. Lubricants can help with some of these problems. Vaginal infections may also occur more often. When you talk with your doctor about these problems, make sure he or she knows you’ve had cancer. Try these methods to ease symptoms:
Before sex, use water-soluble lubricants, such as K-Y Jelly, Astroglide, or other vaginal moisturizers.
Some women can gain weight as a side effect from steroids or antinausea medications or from hormone therapy. Take these actions to help manage your weight: