Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Origin
Here are some common side effects from treatment for carcinoma of unknown primary origin (CUP) and how to ease them. You may not have all of these. We've listed them in alphabetical order so you can find help when you need it.
Anemia (low red blood cell levels)
Your doctor will take blood samples from you for blood tests throughout your treatment. 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 enough oxygen, you may feel tired. If your red blood cell count is low, you have anemia. Decreased red blood cell counts can be caused by small amounts of blood loss due to bleeding, by chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplants, or by the cancer itself.
If your doctor tells you that you have anemia, take these actions to feel better.
Anxiety and depression
Many people may feel blue, anxious, or distressed after being told they have cancer. These feelings may continue or come back throughout treatment. All of these feelings are a normal response to cancer. However, there are steps you can take to ease your mental stress.
Eating well during cancer treatment can help you maintain your strength, stay active, and lower your chances of infection. When you're being treated for cancer, a diet high in calories and protein is best. The problem is that side effects of treatment can change the way food tastes to you. It can also reduce your appetite.
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. Cancer treatments cause your body to use more protein than usual. A dietitian can help you learn what is best for you to eat and drink during your cancer treatment.
If you can, eat high calorie foods to help you maintain your weight. High-calorie foods include margarine or butter, sugar, honey, jams, jellies, cream cheese, dried fruit, gravies or sauces, mayonnaise, and salad dressing.
Get plenty of fluids to help control your body temperature and improve food elimination. In addition to water, apple juices, and other liquids, try gelatin, pudding, soups, frozen juice bars, and ice cream.
On days you don't feel like eating at all, don't worry about it. Try again the next day. If you find your appetite doesn't improve in several days, talk with your doctor or nurse. There may be a medication you can take to help increase your appetite.
Bruising and bleeding
Chemotherapy can interfere with your body's ability to make certain blood cells called platelets. Platelets help stop bleeding when you get a cut or bruise. Without enough platelets, you may bruise or bleed too much. Tell your doctor if you notice these signs of excessive bleeding.
Small red spots under the skin
Signs of blood in your urine (reddish or pinkish color)
Black tarry stools or blood on the toilet tissue after a bowel movement
Bleeding from your nose or gums
Vaginal bleeding not related to your period or heavier bleeding than usual during your period
Headaches or changes in vision
A warm to hot feeling in the arms or legs
If your doctor tells you your platelet count is low, you have a condition called thrombocytopenia. Take these steps to help minimize your risk of bleeding.
Check with your doctor before taking any prescription drugs, over the counter medications, supplements, or herbal medications. Many of them, including aspirin and certain herbal remedies, may further increase your risk of bleeding.
Be especially careful not to cut yourself when using knives, scissors, clippers, or other sharp tools.
This may be a side effect of chemotherapy or some pain medicines. Constipation may include difficult or infrequent bowel movements. It can range from mildly uncomfortable to painful. Taking pain medications can lead to constipation. So, take these preventive actions ahead of time. 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.
This may be a side effect of chemotherapy. Diarrhea includes loose or frequent bowel movements, or both. It may lead to dehydration. Many drugs can cause bowel changes. Take these steps to ease diarrhea.
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).
Losing your hair is known as alopecia. It can be upsetting because baldness is a visible reminder that you are being treated for cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause hair loss. Keep in mind that your hair will likely grow back after treatment, though it may look different than it did before.
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.
Hot flashes may result from hormone therapy. To ease them, try these tips.
Because chemotherapy can reduce the number of white blood cells in your body, it can decrease your body's ability to fight off infection.
Taking these actions may reduce your risk of infection.
Take a warm bath, shower, or sponge bath every day. Do not use harsh bath products, such as skin scrubs. Do not rub your skin too hard with washcloths or towels.
Avoid standing water, such as bird baths, vases, and humidifiers, since bacteria can multiply rapidly under these conditions.
Do not get any immunizations, such as a flu shot, without asking your doctor first. It is generally recommended to get a flu shot, and it is best to get one right before or after chemotherapy, when blood counts are not low. This will allow the shot to work best.
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs of infection.
Some types of chemotherapy and hormone therapy can cause menopausal symptoms. This may be because the drugs damage a woman's ovaries. Or they may prevent the release of the female hormone, estrogen. The result may be these menopausal symptoms, even if you've not yet reached menopause.
For some women, the loss of a menstrual period is permanent. If this happens to you, then you will no longer be able to get pregnant. To cope with symptoms of menopause, try these suggestions.
Talk with your doctor about ways to manage menopausal symptoms. These might include using lubricants for vaginal dryness, doing mild exercise, and talking with a therapist about mood swings or signs of depression.
Mouth sores (mucositis)
Some types of chemotherapy may cause mouth sores. These may hurt and make eating an unpleasant experience.
To prevent sores in your mouth, take these actions.
To ease the pain if you get sores in your mouth, take these actions.
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.
To prevent nausea, take these actions. Most nausea can be prevented.
Ask your doctor about getting a prescription medicine to control nausea and vomiting. Then, make sure you take it as directed. If you are vomiting and cannot take the medicine, call your doctor or nurse.
To help ease nausea or vomiting if you have it, try these tips.
Try eating foods and drinking beverages that were easy to take or made you feel better when you've had the flu or were nauseated from stress. These might be bland foods, sour candy, pickles, dry crackers, ginger ale, flat soda, or others.
Skin dryness or irritation
This may be a side effect of radiation therapy. Take these steps for relief.
Ask your doctor or nurse what kind of lotion you can use to moisturize and soothe your skin. Don't use anything on your skin within two hours after treatment. This includes lotion, soap, deodorant, sunblock, cologne, cosmetics, or powder. They may cause irritation.
Thinking and remembering problems
You may have mild problems with concentration and memory during and after chemotherapy. Being tired can make this worse.
Taking these actions may help.
If you have trouble remembering names, directions, task sequences, etc., be certain to let your medical provider know, and ask what can be done to help improve your cognitive health. Cognitive interventions may be especially important after treatment ends.
Tiredness and fatigue
Tiredness is a very common symptom of carcinoma of unknown primary origin and side effect from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It is also a symptom of anemia, which is a low red blood cell count. Or it can be caused from a B12 vitamin or iron deficiency. Whatever the cause, you may feel only slightly tired, or you may suffer from extreme fatigue.
Taking these actions may help increase your energy level. Fatigue can last four to six weeks after treatment ends.
You may gain weight if you have hormone therapy to treat CUP. Take these actions to help manage your weight.