Assessing progress - Cancer ~ Health Guide

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Assessing progress - Cancer

Written by Mystic on Monday, August 04, 2008

Your doctor will carry out regular tests to assess the effects of the chemotherapy on your cancer. These may include x-rays and scans which can show any reduction in the size of the cancer.

Frequent blood tests will also be carried out. Some cancers produce specific chemicals which can be measured in the blood; variations in the levels can indicate the success of your treatment. Abnormal cells may be found in the blood, for example with the leukaemias, and regular samples will be examined to monitor what is happening.

Chemotherapy can also affect the bone marrow, and result in a reduction in the normal level of cells in the blood (the blood count). This is not uncommon. A blood test is carried out before each treatment to check your blood count and occasionally your next treatment may be delayed if your bone marrow needs extra time to recover.

Blood samples or urine can also be used to measure the function of internal organs such as the liver and kidneys. Other tests may be carried out if the drugs being used are known to be associated with specific adverse effects.

Depending on the results of your tests, your doctor may want to modify your treatment plan. The dosage may be reduced if you are experiencing severe side effects or impaired function of the immune system or other organs in your body. Alternatively, your doctor may want to change to other drugs which may have fewer side effects or to produce a more effective response.

Helping yourself

Even though chemotherapy can cause unpleasant side effects, some people will still manage to lead an almost normal life during their treatment. Even if they feel unwell during the treatment courses, many people find they recover quickly between courses. Other people decide that they want to cut down on some of their activities and take life more slowly for a while.

What is important is that you do what you like, within the limits of comfort. There are also many ways in which you can smooth the course of your treatment and help yourself.

Doing things for yourself will help you to feel more in control of your disease and treatment. Try to plan your time so that you can still do things that are important to you. Remember that rest and relaxation are also important to help your body recover.

Realistic goals are more likely to be achieved. Enjoy your social life but don't be too tough on yourself.

When you go for treatment

Unfortunately, going for your treatment is not usually a quick in and out. You may have to wait for blood tests or X-rays, the results of your tests, to see your doctor and for the pharmacy to make up your drugs. There is also the time it takes to actually receive your drugs. Listed below are some of the methods other people have found helpful to deal with the waiting times. Everyone is different so choose whatever you think might be useful for you.

  • Take a close friend or family member with you to keep you company and remind you of anything you want to find out.
  • Prepare beforehand a list of the questions you want to ask your doctor, nurse or any other person involved in your treatment.
  • Take a walkman so you can listen to your favourite music or an interesting radio programme.
  • Learn a relaxation or self hypnosis technique to help with the anxiety of waiting for tests and results and receiving your treatment.
  • If you are having treatment in a large hospital, ask if there are volunteers who can help you to find the different departments for your tests or sit with you to keep you company.
  • Take a book, newspaper or crossword to occupy your time.
  • Talk to other people who are also waiting for treatment and share experiences. You may pick up useful hints on dealing with side effects, but do check these with your doctor or nurse before using them. Remember that other people might be having very different treatments.

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