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Breast cancer - Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy involves combinations of drugs that kill or stop the growth of cancer cells throughout the body.
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment started soon after breast surgery and may be continued for months or years. In the case of localised breast cancer (cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body), Chemotherapy delays the return of the cancer and can prolong (extend) survival in most women. Often several chemotherapy drugs are used, as this is more effective than using a single drug.
Chemotherapy may also be used in cases where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Use of Chemotherapy drugs in these cases usually relieves symptoms and improves quality of life and may extend the life of the patient slightly (when used with surgery).
Chemotherapy drugs can be administered in a number of ways. The most common way is via injection into a vein (intravenously) where the drugs are given over several minutes. The drugs may be mixed in with a large volume of fluid and injected over a longer time period (hours or days), via a drip or infusion. Chemotherapy drugs can also be administered via an injection into a muscle (intramuscular injection) or via an injection beneath the skin (subcutaneous injection). Chemotherapy is sometimes administered via injection into the fluid surrounding the spine or in the form of tablets.
Chemotherapy may involve visits to a clinic or hospital and some patients are required to stay in hospital after their drugs have been administered. Most Chemotherapy treatments involve periods of drug treatment separated by 'rest' periods that allow the body to recover from side effects of Chemotherapy. The number and frequency of treatments required by a patient depends on the type of cancer and the drugs given. Most Chemotherapy treatments last from six to twelve months.
Extra fluid is required in the 48 hours following intra-venous Chemotherapy so that the body can break down and excrete Chemotherapy drugs. Faster excretion of Chemotherapy drugs after treatment will help to reduce severity of side effects. If the Chemotherapy drugs are administered by mouth, extra fluid is required on the days that the drugs are taken. Ask your Doctor how much fluid you should be drinking. Remember that soups, jellies, iced-blocks and fruit, as well as fluid drinks, help to give you extra liquids.
Dietary Advice during Chemotherapy.
• Avoid eating favourite foods within about 24 hours of Chemotherapy treatment so that if treatment causes nausea and vomiting, there will not be negative associations with these foods at a later time.
• Eat a low fat (less than 3 tablespoons or 40 grams fat/oil per day), high carbohydrate (complex carbohydrate (starch) foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables) diet with small quantities of good quality protein. White meat chicken, fish and eggs are easy to digest. Protein powder-based smoothies are also good ways to add extra protein. Patients who cannot eat solid foods but can tolerate liquids are recommended to supplement fluids with milk powder, low-fat yoghurt, eggs, honey or other drink supplements.
Dietary Advice Between treatments:
Eat a balanced diet. This will enable the body to feel as energetic as possible and improve the body's ability to heal and to fight infection, tolerate the Chemotherapy treatment with fewer side effects and keep body weight at an appropriate level. The following steps are recommended:
1. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods.
2. Eat plenty of breads and cereals (preferably wholegrain), vegetables (including legumes such as those found in the peas and bean families) and fruits.
3.Eat a diet low in fat and, in particular, low in saturated fat.
4. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake.
5. Eat only a moderate amount of sugars and foods containing added sugars.
6. Choose low salt foods and use salt sparingly.
Side effects of Chemotherapy treatment include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, mouth sores and hair loss. Chemotherapy patients may also be more prone to infections and bleeding for several months and 1 or 2 out of every 1000 women receiving Chemotherapy will die from complications caused by infection or bleeding.
Always consult your Doctor before taking any supplements during Chemotherapy. Many anti-cancer drugs work by altering the levels of vitamins in the body, so taking vitamin supplements may interfere with this process. The safest advice is to eat a well balanced diet in order to receive an adequate intake of nutrients.
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Your Pharmacy stocks a range of mouthwashes for maintaining dental hygiene during Chemotherapy.
2. Ask your Pharmacist about nutritional drink supplements to boost calorie and nutrient requirements during Chemotherapy.