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Colorectal Cancer: Managing Your Medical Care: Once A Treatment Decision Is Made

If You Are Going To Have Chemotherapy

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Keep in mind that chemotherapy is much more tolerable than it used to be, and that side effects can be managed much better than in the past.

  • Schedule a dental check up. Oral infections can worsen the effects of chemotherapy.
  • Learn about the side effects that frequently occur with the particular drug(s) and how to eliminate or minimize them.  Keep in mind that just because some side effects occur frequently, that does not mean that you will have them or that they will be as severe as they may be other people. Also keep in mind that aAggressive side effect management increases your likelihood of completing treatment.
    • A place to start is our information about the following chemotherapy drugs:
    • Your medical oncologist is a good source for learning about side effects to anticipate.
    • You can obtain additional information about side effects common with the drugs that will be used in your treatment from such reputable web sites as The American Cancer Society offsite link or American Society of Clinical Oncologists, offsite link. Type in the name of the drug(s) that will be used.
    • Be sure to ask your doctor any questions that come up from your research.
    • For information about coping with common side effects, click here. Get prescriptions for medications that may minimize or help you cope with possible side effects. Prescriptions don't cost anything until you have them filled. If you have the prescriptions, you can fill them without delay if the need arises. 
  • Ask your doctor if there are medications, supplements, herbs and/or vitamins that he or she wants you to discontinue for a period prior to or during chemotherapy.
    • If you are advised to stop any medications, let the prescribing doctor know in case you should be doing something else while you are not allowed to take the drug.
    • If you use recreational drugs, let your doctor know. They may affect chemotherapy
    • If you smoke, stopping can help improve the body’s response to treatment and lessen complications and side effects. If you quit permanently, stopping can decrease the risk of recurrence and enhance survival. For information about stopping, click here.
  • If you are going to take Irinotecan and are at risk for losing your hair :
    • Decide if you will want to wear a wig. If so, now is the time to get one to match your hair or at least to save a sample of your hair. Many insurance companies cover the cost of wigs. Free and low cost wigs are available.
    • Consider other ways of coping such as shaving your head or wearing hats and scarves or even sewing bangs into a scarf.
    • Instead of waiting for hair to fall out, consider cutting it off. Some people cut their hair in a ceremony with their partner or friends.
    • For more information, click here.
  • If you want to have children in the future, ask if a treatment could affect your ability to have them. If so, consider freezing your sperm or egg or a fertilized egg. To learn more, click here.
  • If chemotherapy will be given in a facility, consider taking a tour of the area where chemotherapy will be administered and any other location where you will be spending time. This way you will know what to expect. You'll also get a better idea of what to bring with you to make yourself comfortable during a chemotherapy infusion.
  • Review what to expect while receiving chemotherapy. Our documenets about the specific chemotherapy treatments provides this information.
  • Transportation to and from treatment and medical appointments 
    • Think about how you are going to get to and from appointments. If needed, American Cancer Society can help arrange transportation with its list of volunteer drivers. Call 800.ACS.2345. 
    • The more notice you give the Society, the more likely it can find a volunteer to fill your needs.
    • The Society can also point you to available public transportation in your area if necessary.
  • Nutrition/Vitamins/Supplements. Ask your doctor about changes to start making in your diet to build your system with nutrients that the treatment may affect. The doctor may recommend you speak with a nutritionist/dietitian. 
    • Perhaps you should also be taking a multi-vitamin and/or supplements.  
    • Notify your treatment team of all supplements you take as some may interfere with treatment.
  • Stock up on your single servings of your favorite comfort foods, including some in your freezer that you can defrost as needed. When you freeze foods for this period, make the portions smaller than usual for those occasions when you don't feel like eating a lot.
  • Costs: Check your health insurance policy to determine how much, if at all, you will be out of pocket for your chemo treatment. If you don't have health insurance, start thinking about how to pay for the treatment. For helpful information, see the documents in "To Learn More."

During And After Treatment

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