Published on August 27, 2018
What can be done about side effects patients experience from cancer treatment? Can mind-body medicine strategies provide relief? Expert Dr. Ishwaria Subbiah, from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, shares questions to ask your health care team before starting a treatment regimen and tips for ongoing side effect management. Dr. Subbiah also discusses commonly seen side effects from chemotherapy, medication interventions and explains how mind-body medicine techniques correlate to a patient’s unique side effect profile.
This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power. We thank Celgene Corporation, Genentech, Helsinn and Novartis for their support.
Transcript | How Can Patients Protect Their Bodies From Powerful Effects of Chemo?
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Here's a question we got from Susan. Susan wants to know, how can I protect myself from the effects of chemo outside of massage and meditation? So chemo and even some of the non so-called chemo drugs are very powerful and they have effects. So, Dr. Subbiah, what about protecting yourself? What can you do?
So it's there are added effects that one experiences. That's very different from therapy to therapy. And so the interventions are, what you would do is dependent on the side effects of what you are taking at the moment. So it starts with that discussion with your provider team. What are the most common side effects, and what are some of the more rare side effects? So it gives you a sense of what you're most likely to experience and also to be on alert in case you happen to be that person who has a rare side effect as a consequence of the therapy.
Now, there are side effects from chemotherapy and targeted therapy and immunotherapy and cell therapy (if anyone is on CAR T). There's only so much that can be done to protect yourself from this. So the preventative aspects of the side effects is not there yet. That is something that we work towards. That's something we hope to have so that the person doesn't have the side effect to begin with.
So at the moment, the way symptom management is is we have to we address the side effect after it happens. And so the approach some of the most common side effects that are fatigue, nausea, there are medications there. You can talk to your medical provider about if there's a role for a small, lower dose of steroids to help with fatigue. If there's a role for a lower dose of methylphenidate (Ritalin) to help with fatigue, which is a stimulant. So there are some data to support these in smaller trials.
There's, as with many medication interventions for fatigue management, the data is always mixed, and so there are some trials that support it, others that don't, and so at the end of the day my approach to it is if somebody's having severe fatigue and they're on a treatment that's helping their cancer, treating their cancer, keeping it under control, and we have a lot to gain from having the cancer under control let's try a medication or two for the fatigue and see if it helps. If it doesn't help you, then stop it and move on.
But there's so much variation from person to person, how you respond to a medication that's there for supportive care and the side effects of the original cancer treatment.