After Chemo and Radiation

bald_barbieIsn’t it crazy that we treat cancer with poison? I guess you have to fight fire with fire as the old saying goes.

Chemotherapy treatments put the body’s immune system into shock. While the treatments are used to kill the cancer cells, they also damage normal, healthy cells. Common side-effects are: fatigue, pain, diarrhea, constipation, blood disorders, “chemo brain,” and loss of appetite. It can also effect the nervous system and patients experience: tingling, burning, weakness/numbness in extremities, muscle weakness, loss of balance, difficulty hearing and seeing, balance issues, shaking/trembling and headaches/stiff neck.

Cancer cells are fast-replicating. But, they are not the only fast-replicating cells in the body, the good cells like the ones that line the inside of the mouth and intestines; and those that make up our hair and bone marrow get destroyed in the process. That’s why cancer patients suffer from hair loss, mouth sores and nausea.

Radiotherapy (radiation) only targets the area of the body where the cancer is present. Most patients that are treated by radiation are fatigued and may show a reaction on their skin like a rash or redness. It can even permanently change the pigmentation of the skin or scar it. The body part being targeted can also become inflamed which can cause complications in that organ or area.

Most side-effects from these treatments dissipate when treatment ends. However, in some cases it can takes weeks or even years to be free of them. Long-term side effects can include heart, nerve, lung, kidney damage. It can also have an adverse effect on the reproductive organs. You should also discuss the risk of developing more cancer in the future because of the treatment.

Side-effects from these cancer therapies can be horrible to live with but they can be managed effectively. Use ginger to combat nausea, mouthwash (1tsp bicarbonate soda or salt in warm water a few times a day) to help with mouth sores, Fucoidan to help restore the destroyed bone marrow and hair cells as well as other painful effects from these treatments.

Talk with your treatment manager to construct a plan to combat side-effects before they start. Having coping strategies will help reduce the stress of enduring the treatments and their aftermath.

The Impact of Cancer

handsCancer doesn’t effect just the patient. It impacts family, friends and caregivers. Patients should use the help offered as much as possible. The support group wants to be of as much help as they can possibly be to the patient.

Supporters should be told that all feelings about the situation and those that arise should be shared openly and honestly. This will help when dealing with conflicts that happen throughout recovery.

The empathy a cancer patient supporter feels can be so strong that they want to do everything for the patient. The patient and support people should discuss what the patient wants and needs as situations arise. Everyone needs to be straightforward, and descriptive to reduce miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Keep in mind that interpretations of needs can be different for both patient and supporter. So, before tempers flare, take a deep breath and think about what to say. Certain circumstances can bring on bad feelings and words that can not be taken back.

Care should be coordinated so that one individual is not the sole supporter. Although the patient is living with the disease and suffering from the effects 24/7, the support group should be rotated so each person has a break from the sick room. This will allow them time to refresh, restore perspective and ultimately be better at caring for the needs of the patient.

Taking frustrations out on the supporter is not going to help anyone feel better. So, be kind and work together. Help the caregiver understand the disease, treatment options and their side-effects. This will help them be more proactive in anticipating and understanding the patient’s needs.

This is a scary time for all parties involved. If a dialogue is open for sharing not only fears and worries, but triumphs and joys everyone can support each other and decrease anxiety, frustration and stress.

 

Shingles Treatment

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Shingles_on_the_chest.jpgIf you have shingles, there are many ways to treat the pain of the disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this virus. Various antiviral medications with anti-herpetic qualities such as Fenvir or acyclovir-based products can help reduce the time it takes for shingles heal and can reduce your chances of developing shingles again. Shingles most often occurs in people who are over 50 years of age, with your chances of getting shingles raising the older you get. As many as 50% of people over 85 have had shingles, so this virus is rather common. When your shingles appear, there is no form of medication that you can take to make it clear up the way you might with other viral infections or diseases. There are some practices you should be aware of when you are suffering from this illness, though:
*Do not pick or scratch blisters. These sores will scab over and fall of naturally; picking and scratching will only open the wounds, make them susceptible to infection, and create scarring.
*Use cold compresses to relieve pain. Ice-water infused to a clean towel can be applied to the blisters to help numb pain. After the towel is taken off, certain soothing lotions can be applied. Use of perfumed lotions is highly discouraged, as the perfume can irritate and inflame the sores.
*Keep blisters dry and clean. Using baking soda can help dry out the sores; this will allow them to heal faster and keep them from getting overly-inflamed. Keeping your blisters clean by soaking them with water can decrease oozing, gently clean away scabs, and soothe skin.
*Buy an antibiotic if your skin becomes infected. Infections are only common if you touch your blisters too often or allow them to grow too moist.
*Take medication. Non-prescription pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help reduce the itching related to the rash. If you are on a prescription pain pill already, you should not take over the counter pain medications.

Natural treatments like Fenvir antiviral and prescribed drugs like acyclovir can also help reduce the time it takes for blisters to heal. Natural antivirals are available without prescription, while prescription anti-herpetic medications will require you to consult your doctor.

The Hard Facts About Shingles

http://doctorrennie.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/shingles-792797.jpgShingles is part of the herpesviridae virus family (which is also responsible for oral and genital herpes). Once infection sets in, all herpes virus work the same: they hide in the nervous system, where they lay dormant for weeks or months (in the case of oral and genital herpes) or years (in the case of shingles). The herpes zoster virus is responsible for both chickenpox and shingles. After catching varicella zoster virus (chickenpox), the virus mutates into the herpes zoster and hides away in the nerves of the spinal column or at the base of the skull. From this point on, the shingles virus is dormant and living inside of the body. There is no cure for shingles, so the virus will remain latent in the body for the rest of your life.
Shingles itself is non-contagious, though this comes with a caveat. You cannot give another person shingles, but if someone else touches your wound, and they have not had chickenpox, they will contract chickenpox from your shingles. Later in life, the person might get shingles themselves.

Shingles generally occurs in people who are over 50 years old, with a higher chance of symptoms as the person gets older. The first signs of shingles becoming active can seem very minor; headache and flu-symptoms without a raised internal body temperature are common indicators that you may be getting shingles. An itchy or tingling area on the body found in a small patch or strip will be an indication of where the shingles will appear within a matter of days or weeks. When the virus becomes completely active, the symptoms can be quite severe. The rash that appears will be covered in painful, fluid-filled blisters that will be more painful than they are itchy. After about five days to a week, the blisters will burst and scab over. After about two to four weeks, the rash will be gone though scars may remains. Sometimes a condition called posteherpetic neuralgia can occur and be chronically painful for months or years, though this happens in less than 1% of cases.
It is possible that the virus will never become activated, and you will have no symptoms from the virus if this is the case. Regardless, there is a vaccine and there are medications that can help reduce your chances of getting shingles in the first place.

Treating Shingles And Postherpetic Neuralgia Pain

http://fastshinglescure.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/shingles-diet1.jpgShingles is a severely painful and irritating condition for its entire active duration. Postherpetic neuralgia, however, is a disorder caused by shingles which happens in about 20% of shingles sufferers. African Americans develop this condition at about ¼ of the rate of Caucasians, though older or weakened immune systems are still the prime factor in the development of this condition.
Postherpetic neuralgia is diagnosed when the person suffering from shingles still feels pain from the rash for longer than three months after the virus has become inactive. This pain can last months or even years in some cases, though having the condition for more than a year is very rare. The effects of this condition have been described as ranging from increased or decreased sensitivity to touch, to “burning,” “gnawing,” or “stabbing” pain.

Though there is no medicine that can cure away the pain of postherpetic neuralgia, there are some steps that can be taken to mitigate its effects. Often, anesthetic gels such as benzocaine can be applied to the affected area to relieve pain. In some cases, anticonvulsants can help calm down nerves to reduce pain as well. For some people, opioid pain relievers are very effective for chronic pain such as postherpetic neuralgia, and antidepressants can also be prescribed if the patient is mentally suffering from this condition as well.
Some people attempt alternative treatments for their postherpetic neuralgia pain. Acupuncture, electrical current stimulation, and psychological therapy have been reported by some to be an effective way to reduce the pain of the condition. Because the pain of this disorder comes from nerves, breathing and relaxation exercises can help control the amount of pain or irritation that the condition may be making you feel. If you experience shingles pain without rash, you do have options to manage your condition.

It is very unlikely for shingles to return for a second time in someone’s life; if you have postherpetic neuralgia pain, it is simply (though painfully) just a matter of waiting out the condition. It is uncommon for this disorder to last longer than a year, and medications can help the pain associated with this condition.

Combating the Pain from Shingles

http://www.aidsmeds.com/images/shingles.jpgShingles is a serious infection for anyone, but especially for seniors. An estimated one million people in the United States get shingles each year, and most of those are age 50 and above (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). About one-third of the people who get shingles will develop serious complications, and the complications caused by shingles are increasingly more common after age 60 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). One in five of those inflicted with shingles will have pain that lingers long after the shingles episode is over (AfterShingles.com)

Your doctor can discuss the necessary steps to help prevent a shingles outbreak or minimize its severity. Because seniors are more at risk for acquiring shingles and are most acutely affected by a shingles episode, they should be aware of the signs and symptoms and the actions to take in case of an outbreak.

Shingles comes on very quickly and manifests itself as a painful rash of blisters, usually concentrated around either the left or right side of the torso. A person who has had chickenpox is more likely to develop shingles later in life because shingles is caused by the same varicella-zoster virus that evokes chickenpox. The virus lays dormant in the body after chickenpox has come and gone, but it can flare up at any time, returning as shingles. Shingles is more common in people with immune systems weakened by chemotherapy, radiation treatment, transplant operations, stress, and HIV infection.

Early detection and immediate treatment with medication are key to combating shingles. For best treatment results, a person should see a doctor at the first sign of shingles. The doctor can determine if blisters are shingles just by looking at them and will administer treatment right away. The initial symptoms of shingles are typically felt on only one side of the body or face. These signs are tingling, itching, and burning or shooting pain. A person may also experience achiness, headaches, fever and chills, and fatigue. A rash and fluid-filled blisters soon follow and remain for up to 14 days.

The condition of pain following a shingles episode is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) and can last for months or even years.