Ovarian Cancer Treatment Side Effects
Chemotherapy can damage the nerves in the body, leading to a painful condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy causes nerve pain -- a type of pain that feels very different from the pain associated with muscle or joint injury.
Nerve pain causes sensations of tingling, burning, or numbness, usually in the hands and feet. It can make it difficult to complete everyday tasks that require you to use your hands, such as picking up objects or fastening your clothing. You may also find it hard to walk, or feel clumsy or off-balance.
If you have nerve pain, you'll want to be extra careful when grasping objects that are sharp, hot, or otherwise dangerous. You'll also want to take care when walking to help preserve your balance and keep from falling down. Make sure to use handrails when going up and down the stairs. Wear rubber-soled shoes whenever possible as well -- they're less slippery.
A lot of the typical pain medicines usually don't work so well for nerve pain. But, there are other medicines your healthcare provider can prescribe to help. Don't be surprised if your healthcare provider recommends an antidepressant. This doesn't mean your pain is in your head. These types of medicines just happen to also help with nerve pain.
Most of the time, nerve pain gets better after treatment ends. But, it can take the nerves a long time to heal, so your symptoms might persist for up to a year.
While most women will experience some degree of nausea, and might throw up, as a result of chemotherapy, the availability of new and more effective antinausea and vomiting medications (called anti-emetics) in recent years has helped. Nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy is now less common, and, when it does occur, less severe.
Not all medicines work equally well for everyone. And because nausea and vomiting can occur at different times during treatment -- before, immediately after, or more than 24 hours after your chemotherapy dose -- you may need to take more than one anti-emetic for full relief. Your healthcare provider will try to find the best combination of medications for your symptoms.
In addition to taking your anti-emetic medicines as prescribed, try the following tips to help manage nausea and vomiting at home:
- Eat small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones.
- Eat and drink slowly.
- Eat foods that are cold or at room temperature so you're less likely to be bothered by strong smells.
- Try bland foods, such as crackers, toast, or flat soda. Avoid foods that are fried, spicy, or fatty.
- Prepare and freeze meals in advance. Reheat them on days you're feeling nauseous.
- Learn relaxation techniques. Some women find relaxation exercises can reduce their anxiety about chemotherapy, and in turn, their nausea.
(Click Chemotherapy and Nausea for additional tips on managing nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.)