Shortcut Navigation:

Preparing for Chemotherapy FAQs

Updated December 17, 2014

What can I do to prepare physically and emotionally for chemotherapy?

What can I do to prepare for hair loss? What options are available for hair replacement?

Can I keep working or volunteering while I am getting treatment?

What benefits does exercise offer?

What are some strategies for communicating with my family, friends and colleagues?

Q: What can I do to prepare physically and emotionally for chemotherapy?

A: Here are some tips to help you:

  • Do something special for yourself: spend the day with a friend, take a weekend trip, or go to a spa.
  • Eat your favorite foods. Chemotherapy sometimes makes things taste different than usual, so you may want to avoid your favorite meals during treatment.
  • See a dentist to make sure your teeth and gums are in good condition. Buy toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Chemotherapy can cause mouth pain, dry mouth or sores that make you vulnerable to infection.
  • If you may lose your hair, make a plan. Some women cut it short or shave their heads before the hair falls out on its own; others preserve each hair as long as possible. Have hair replacements such as wigs, hats and scarves on hand.
  • Arrange rides to treatment with family or friends.
  • Drink lots of water to help prevent dry mouth, mouth sores and nausea.
  • Get loose, comfortable clothing that makes you feel at ease and provides your nurses easy access to your arm.
  • Ask your nurse what foods to have on hand to help you avoid feeling sick to your stomach. Stock up your freezer with foods for you and your family.
  • Learn the names of the administrative staff in your doctors’ offices so you feel comfortable asking questions and requesting reports.
  • Talk to those who care about you or, if you aren’t feeling up to it, ask someone to communicate on your behalf. Try Lotsa Helping Hands or CarePages for ideas and support.

Reviewed by Carolyn Weaver, RN, MSN, AOCN

Q: What can I do to prepare for hair loss? What options are available for hair replacement?

A: While some chemotherapy treatments will make you lose your hair, this is not the case with all of them. Some will cause thinning, while others won’t impact your hair in any way.

Preparing ahead of time for your hair loss can help you feel more in control when hair thinning begins. Cut your hair short, or shave it before it falls out. Some women even have a "hair shaving" party so they do not have to go through the experience alone. Investigate hair replacements before you lose your hair, so you have materials on hand. If you do lose your hair, you may choose to wear a wig, shave or cut your hair, wear a scarf or hat or wear nothing at all.

Reviewed by Carolyn Weaver, RN, MSN, AOCN

Q: Can I keep working or volunteering while I am getting treatment?

A: Whether you work or volunteer will depend on how you feel, but overdo it. You may want to speak with your employer about working less often or at home when you don’t feel well enough to make it into the office. There are laws that require employers to adjust your work schedule to help you while you are getting treatment. Check with your employer or your social worker.

Read more about your legal rights in our Guide to Understanding Financial Concerns.

Reviewed by Carolyn Weaver, RN, MSN, AOCN

Q: What benefits does exercise offer?

A: Aerobic exercise, such as walking or dancing, can help relieve stress and help combat fatigue. It can also help you better maintain your endurance and stamina during treatment.

Reviewed by Rick Michaelson, MD

Q: What are some strategies for communicating with my family, friends and colleagues?

A: Here are some strategies:

  • Be as open as you can about what you are thinking and feeling. Some people may be afraid to ask.
  • Tell people when you need them to listen. Say, "I need you to sit down, look at me and listen to me for a few minutes so I know you’re hearing what I’m saying."
  • Be specific about what you need and don’t need. If people try to do something for you that you would rather do yourself, let them know.
  • If someone starts to tell you stories or give you advice you don’t want to hear, ask the person to stop. Don’t be afraid to be blunt. Say, "Please stop. This is not helpful to me." If you want to talk about something other than cancer, let them know.
  • Ask other women who had breast cancer about resources that they found helpful.
  • Call the  Breast Cancer Helpline at (888) 753-LBBC (5222) and talk to a woman who has had breast cancer about how she asked family and friends for help and support.
  • Visit Lotsa Helping Hands or CarePages for ideas and support.

Reviewed by Carolyn Weaver, RN, MSN, AOCN

Denver, CO  ·  September 13, 2014

Join Your Community for Yoga on the Steps!

Close
close