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Cancer Treatment and Side Effects: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Cancer and its treatment can cause problems that you have to watch for after you leave the clinic or hospital. You may feel very tired. You may have pain. Medicines and other treatments can reduce or stop some of these problems.

You can work with your doctor to find the right solutions to your cancer-related problems. One of the best things you can do is take good care of yourself.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Ask your doctor before you take any medicine. This includes natural health products and over-the-counter medicines.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • Eat healthy foods. A diet that contains fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may increase your energy levels.
  • Try to get some physical activity every day. But don't get too tired.
  • Plan activities for the time of day when you have the most energy. This way you can plan ahead to do what you want to do.
  • To prevent infections:
    • Wash your hands often during the day, especially before you eat and after you use the bathroom.
    • Stay away from people who have illnesses that you might catch, such as influenza (flu) or a cold.
    • Clean cuts and scrapes right away with clean water. Wash them daily until they are healed.
  • Keep track of your temperature, if your doctor recommends it.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have abnormal bleeding.
  • You have new or worse pain.
  • You think you have an infection.
  • You have new symptoms, such as a cough, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You are much more tired than usual.
  • You have swollen glands in your armpits, groin, or neck.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.