Supporting a Friend Through Chemotherapy

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer by the use of medicines that attack the cancer cells by stopping them multiplying and therefore growing, which in turn stops it spreading. Chemotherapy can take all sorts of forms but the most common are intravenously through a vein or orally in tablet form. Chemotherapy is usually allocated over several sessions over a period of time.

Some treatments can make you lose your hair. It is important to find out from your friend / relative if this may happen with their treatment. If so, tread carefully. Don't make silly jokes as sudden hair loss is no laughing matter.

The perfect package

When hair loss is expected

soft toothbrush
toothpaste
mouthwash
moisturiser
hand sanitiser

When the cold cap is being tried (less hair loss)

headband
pH neutral shampoo
soft toothbrush
toothpaste
mouthwash
hand sanitiser
moisturiser

When no hair loss is expected

pH neutral shampoo
conditioner
soft toothbrush
toothpaste
mouthwash
hand sanitiser
moisturiser

How can a friend / relative help?

Cancer can be expensive. There are additional costs that your relative / friend may incur from car parking to buying the right products to make things a little more bearable.

Side effects of chemotherapy are numerous and having the right products to hand can really help

Oral hygiene

This is really important as mouth ulcers, in particular, are a very common side effect.

A soft toothbrush will be more gentle on the gums

A medicinal mouthwash can help reduce mouth ulcers and make them less painful

Choose a mild tasting toothpaste to keep the mouth clean. A non foaming brand that is SLS free can help reduce the pain of mouth ulcers.

Will a cold cap be used?

When using the cold cap the shampoo used should be pH neutral. Conditioner should not be used whilst using the cold cap as hair will be too fragile and will encourage more hair to be lost - something that should be avoided.

The cold cap is around -32 degrees centigrade. Put against the forehead it gives an unbelievable headache. To combat this a headband that is fastened by Velcro so that you can undo it as opposed to pulling it off is ideal.

If no cold cap is being used and the chemotherapy treatment does not equal hair loss a pH neutral shampoo and conditioner are perfect partners

Alternatively, if there is likely to be total hair loss shampoo and conditioner can be given to celebrate the final chemotherapy session.

Eyes

Hair loss can mean total hair loss, including eyebrows and eyelashes. Be sensitive - steer clear of false eyelashes and eyebrow kits unless you are specifically asked for these products. These are "just in case" items and a very personal choice as to whether you want them on standby.

Skincare

Chemotherapy can make your skin very dry - especially hands and feet. Moisturisers are great to help combat this.