Appetite and Taste Changes

During chemotherapy, you may experience taste and appetite changes and a heightened sensitivity to odors. Don’t worry if you don’t have an appetite the first few days or a week following chemotherapy; it is not unusual. As you feel better, your appetite will improve. Reflux — when food backs up into your esophagus — burping, or a burning sensation may worsen nausea. Please report these symptoms to your physician or nurse so that they can be treated. You may find that you can tolerate only certain foods. We encourage you to eat what appeals to you during this time, and to drink enough fluids — eight to10 eight-ounce glasses per day; more if you have a fever or diarrhea.

Practical Hints for Taste and Appetite Changes

  • Eat what appeals to you during this time.
  • Eat foods that are warm rather than hot.
  • Avoid places where food is being cooked, such as the kitchen at dinnertime.
  • Avoid smells that are unappealing.
  • To try drink eight to 10 glasses of fluid a day.
  • Before possible hair loss, some people like to cut their hair short. The hair loss won’t be quite so shocking if there is less hair to lose.
  • Put a towel over your pillow so that clean up in the morning will be easier while you are shedding your hair.
  • Buy a drain catch for your shower. Other people choose to shave their head hair when hair loss begins.

Refer to our wig information sheet for places to shop near you. When buying a wig, take a friend for emotional support and maybe even a laugh!

Diarrhea or Constipation

Some chemotherapy drugs can cause diarrhea. You may take Imodium A-D unless told otherwise by your physician or nurse.

Practical Hints for Constipation

  • To help prevent constipation, drink eight to 10 glasses of fluid a day.
  • Take a stool softener (not a laxative) such as ducosate sodium (DSS), also known as Colace, one tablet once or twice a day and Senekot or Senekot-S 2 tabs at night if you are having constipation.
  • Stay as active as you can. Consistent regular exercise can reduce constipation.
  • If you can tolerate them, try high fiber foods such as prunes, bran, fruits and vegetables.

Practical Hints for Diarrhea

  • To replenish lost fluids, drink 8-10 eight-ounce glasses of non-caffeinated fluids per day.
  • If your rectum is sore, use soft toilet paper and A&D ointment (used for diaper rash in infants) or Anusol, which can help numb the rectum and soothe soreness.
  • Mouth Sores

Mouth sores occur because chemotherapy not only destroys cancer cells, but also rapidly dividing cells, such as those that line your mouth and esophagus. Please call the nurse should you develop painful mouth sores or have difficulty swallowing.

Practical Hints for Mouth Sores

  • Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush three times daily.
  • Rinse your mouth with a solution of one teaspoon baking soda and one teaspoon of salt, diluted in a glass of lukewarm water three or four times daily.
  • Do not use commercial mouthwashes containing alcohol. We can prescribe Magic Mouthwash if needed.
  • on a regular basis or other water based lubricants as needed, especially during and before sexual activity. These products will help with vaginal dryness and irritation.
  • Try an opened vitamin E capsule or olive oil spread on the vagina to increase lubrication.

Questions and Concerns

If you have a question or concerns, staff will take your message and your nurse or physician will call you back. Please allow two days notice for medication refills.

If your call is urgent, please tell us immediately when you call.

If you are calling at night, on a weekend or a holiday, please call the same number. You will speak with a member of the answering service who will take your name and number. A physician will be paged and will call you back. Please be prepared to tell the answering service:

  •   Your name and doctor
  •   Your type of cancer
  •   The type of chemotherapy and the date you last received treatment
  •   The names of any other medications you are taking
  •   Your pharmacy’s phone numberPlease remember that we are here to make this time less difficult for you and call us with any questions or concerns. 845-454-1942

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