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Discharge Instructions for Chemotherapy

Your doctor prescribed a type of medication therapy for you called chemotherapy. Doctors prescribe chemotherapy for many different types of illnesses, including cancer. There are many types of chemotherapy. This sheet provides general guidelines on how you can take care of yourself after your chemotherapy.

Mouth Care

Don’t be discouraged if you get mouth sores, even if you are following all your doctor’s instructions. Many people get mouth sores as a side effect of chemotherapy. Here’s what you can do to prevent mouth sores:

  • Keep your mouth clean. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush after every meal.

  • Use an oral swab or special soft toothbrush if your gums bleed during regular brushing.

  • Don’t use dental floss if your platelet count is below 50,000. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if this is the case.

  • Use any mouthwashes given to you as directed.

  • If you can’t tolerate regular methods, use salt and baking soda to clean your mouth. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Swish and spit.

  • Watch your mouth and tongue for white patches. This may be a sign of fungal infection, a common side effect of chemotherapy. Be sure to tell your doctor about these patches. Medication can be prescribed to help you fight the fungal infection.

Other Home Care

  • Try to exercise. Exercise keeps you strong and keeps your heart and lungs active. Walk as much as you can without becoming dizzy or weak.

  • Keep clean. During chemotherapy, your body can’t fight infection very well. Take short baths or showers.

    • Use moisturizing soap. Chemotherapy can make your skin dry.

    • Apply moisturizing lotion several times a day to help relieve dry skin.

    • Don’t take very hot or very cold showers or baths.

  • Don’t be surprised if your chemotherapy causes slight burns to your skin — usually on the hands and feet. Some drugs used in high doses cause this to happen. Ask for a special cream to help relieve the burn and protect your skin.

  • Let your doctor know if your throat is sore. You may have an infection that needs treatment.

  • Remember, many patients feel sick and lose their appetites during treatment. Eat small meals several times a day to keep your strength up.

    • Choose bland foods with little taste or smell if you are reacting strongly to food.

    • Be sure to cook all food thoroughly. This kills bacteria and helps you avoid infection.

    • Eat foods that are soft. Soft foods are less likely to cause stomach irritation.

 

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Unexplained bleeding

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Ongoing fatigue

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or trouble breathing

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat; chest pain

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness

  • Constant feeling of being cold

  • Hives or a cut or rash that swells, turns red, feels hot or painful, or begins to ooze

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or chills

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2/7/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.