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Self Help is the best Help during Cancer Treatment

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Self Help is the best Help during Cancer Treatment

Dr. Ranga Rao
Medical Oncology, Oncology / Cancer Care
Medical Oncology, Oncology / Cancer Care
Director - Medical Oncology

Cancer treatment is a holistic approach and not just anti-cancer treatment. It is possible that several aspects of cancer can get ignored. To tackle this issue, patients and caregivers are educating themselves to carry out a self help programme to reduce their dependency on doctors and nurses. However, if there are complications or specific questions, do not hesitate to approach your doctor. As we say,” Self help is the best help”. 

How to take care of yourself during the treatment?

  • When your body tells you it is tired, listen to it. Rest, lie down during the day or go to bed early.
  • Choose carefully what you do when you are very tired. Having something to do that you enjoy can be a good distraction. Regular exercise, without overdoing it, may help prevent depression and tiredness.
  • Develop a plan to pace yourself. Space out activities over the week. Plan to rest between activities.
  • While you are recovering from treatment give simple tasks, such as house work, to other people. Sometimes it can be difficult to accept help. Your family and friends appreciate being asked to help you with practical tasks such as shopping and cooking.

How to manage the physical symptoms?

  • Symptoms of cancer such as pain can be controlled. Discuss this with your doctor or nurse.
  • Drink plenty of fluids every day.
  • Eat a balanced diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, cereals and protein, such as fish, chicken and milk.
  • If you are having difficulty sleeping, try relaxation exercises, a warm bath, a milky drink or both.
  • Sleeping tablets can be helpful in the short term. But, discuss this option with your doctor.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

What you can do to help yourself?

  • Your cancer is not your fault. Don’t be too hard on yourself and your family.
  • Help yourself feel better by setting small goals.
  • Make time every day to do something you enjoy. It may be exercising, being outside, listening to your favourite music, watching funny DVDs.
  • Reach out to others. There may be times when finding strength is hard and things feel overwhelming. It’s very difficult for any one person to handle cancer all alone. Try to widen your circle by reaching out to friends, family, or support organizations as it can help you feel less alone. They’ll be there to share your fears, hopes, and triumphs every step of the way.
  • Do relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation.
  • Counselling may help and can also teach simple techniques to gain control over depression, anxiety and fear.
  • Try to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. Finding ways to be hopeful can improve the quality of your life, but it won’t determine whether you’ll beat cancer. Despite what you may hear, people’s attitudes don’t cause or cure cancer. It’s normal to feel sad, stressed, or uncertain, and even to grieve over how your life has changed. When this happens, expressing those feelings can help you feel more in control rather than overwhelmed by your emotions. It also frees up energy for all the other things you need to handle.

How to cope with the depression?

Many people go through a time of grief and sadness when they first learn that they have cancer. They grieve the loss of health and certainty in their lives. This sadness may seem like depression, but it’s not the same. Grieving – feeling sadness, fear, anger, or going through crying spells – is a common reaction to learning you have cancer. It usually doesn’t last a long time, and is a normal.

How to manage fear, anxiety and panic attacks?

If you have a panic attack:

  • Take slow deep breaths
  • Distract yourself. For example go for a walk, ring a friend, or listen to music.
  • Do relaxation exercises.

When to visit your Doctor?

If you experience any of the following at any time during your cancer treatment inform your doctor immediately

  • Fever higher than 100.5oF
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Vomiting that continues for longer than 12 hours
  • Severe constipation or diarrhoea
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Shortness of breath/chest pain
  • Urinary burning or urgency
  • Blood in the urine or stool
  • Pain in a new place or pain that is not relieved by your pain medicine