Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to cure cancer, control cancer or ease the symptoms of cancer. In addition to destroying tumor cells, chemotherapy also damages healthy cells. Both can cause side effects. Every patient experiences chemotherapy differently. Some patients have just a few symptoms that are easy to manage; others have a more difficult time. Fortunately, most side effects go away or subside after treatment ends.

The most common side effects of chemotherapy are fatigue, hair loss, and taste, smell and appetite changes. Chemotherapy itself may cause fatigue, or you may become fatigues from side effects, such as anemia--insufficient red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your body. The best ways to cope with fatigue are to rest often, limit your activities and accept help from others until you are feeling better.

Hair loss during chemotherapy is particularly distressing for women. Some patients shave their head or cut their hair short before chemotherapy causes it to fall out, making it easier to cope when it happens. If you decide you want to wear a wig until your hair grows back, buy it before chemotherapy starts so you can match the color and style of your natural hair.

Food is an integral part our daily lives. We need food for basic survival and meals are an important part of our social interactions with others. During cancer treatment, however, food may no longer taste appealing, or your sense of smell may change from damage to your mouth or neural pathways. You may lose your appetite due to nausea or vomiting. Even if you don't feel like eating, try to maintain a healthy diet. Try eating small, frequent meals. You may find that shakes, smoothies, soup and juices may be easier to tolerate. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, especially if you have diarrhea, and to prevent constipation.

More Tips

1. See your dentist. It's important to start cancer treatment with a healthy mouth and you shouldn't have dental work during chemotherapy.

2. Ask for help. Let friends and family know how they can help and accept their offers of help. Cancer treatment is not the time to try to handle everything yourself.

3. If you experience pain or discomfort during your chemotherapy treatment, talk to your physician. He or she can alleviate your suffering.