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How to Combat Headaches During Chemotherapy

Find out how patients are finding relief from oral mucositis caused by chemotherapy

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How to Combat Headaches During Chemotherapy

Patients undergoing chemotherapy must contend with a barrage of symptoms and side effects as a result of their treatment. These conditions can range from the relatively minor – changes in taste or more frequent bruising – to the severe and debilitating – nerve pain, weight loss, oral mucositis, and painful headaches. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms have favorable remedies, leaving many patients to wonder how they can improve their quality of life during chemo. However, there are some basic steps you can take to combat headaches during chemotherapy, and other side effects can be mitigated as well. To learn more, keep reading as the people at Chemo Mouthpiece™ explain.

What Causes Headaches During Chemo?

As common as headaches are – the more pedestrian kind, anyway – it still surprises people to learn that your brain can’t actually experience pain. That’s because there are no pain receptors there; instead, conditions in the skull put pressure on tissues that support the brain, such as blood vessels and nerves. These are the sources of the pain you feel when you have a headache, and the presence of toxic chemo drugs in the body (along with the many other medications cancer patients take) can create conditions that make for some debilitating headaches.

For example, it’s not uncommon for a chemo patient to develop one or more infections during treatment, as chemotherapy tends to weaken the immune system. If a patient develops an infection in their sinuses, it can quickly worsen and create pressure that leads to headaches. Other common side effects of chemo can contribute to the appearance of headaches as well, including anemia, dehydration, insomnia, stress, and fatigue.

Those with specific types of cancer are also at a greater risk for developing headaches, including those with cancers of the brain, spinal cord, pituitary gland, or throat, or those with certain types of lymphoma. Unfortunately, patients with these conditions also tend to receive their chemo, radiation, or immunotherapy treatments directly to the head, further exacerbating any pain they may have. However, it’s not only those with head and neck-related cancers who are at risk, as many therapies for other cancers, such as breast cancer, can also cause headaches.

Dealing with Headaches from Chemotherapy

For the most part, combatting headaches caused by chemotherapy is simply a matter of working with your cancer care team to ease the pain as much as possible, though there are one or two steps you can take at home that could provide relief as well. Perhaps the most basic of these is to drink plenty of water, even if one or more of your chemo side effects makes this difficult. Patients frequently report that nausea, mouth sores, or a lingering bad taste in the mouth – or all three – make drinking anything, even water, unpleasant. Yet hydrating frequently has been shown to be effective at helping some people with their headaches.

Some common over-the-counter painkillers may help as well, though the effectiveness of these medications is limited in cases of severe pain. Nontraditional holistic treatments – meditation, acupuncture, massage, etc. – have shown promise with some patients, but they may not work for everyone. Prescription-strength narcotic painkillers can be a potent option, though patients may be reluctant to turn to such powerful drugs. In some cases, your oncologist may be able to adjust your chemotherapy to improve your condition, generally by lowering the dosage or changing your treatment schedule. If your headaches persist or if they significantly impact your quality of life, make sure to discuss them with your doctor.

Fighting Other Common Chemo Side Effects

A patient going through chemo probably faces much more than a headache. Most patients have to deal with a bevy of unpleasant side effects, some of which can prove difficult, or even impossible, to treat. For certain conditions, however, there is hope; nausea and vomiting can be fought with certain medications, for instance, as can things like constipation. Patients expecting fertility issues after chemo can freeze their sperm or eggs as a contingency, and those who have trouble eating solid foods can use meal replacement shakes and other types of liquid supplements.

Perhaps no side effect has as much potential for mitigation as oral mucositis. This condition is characterized by the appearance of painful sores in the mouth, which in turn lead to potential bleeding, inflammation, and – in severe cases – infection. The prevailing treatment for mucositis is cryotherapy, the application of freezing temperatures to affect the body, typically in the form of ice chips offered by nurses during an infusion. However, a more effective option has shown promise for those looking to limit the severity of oral mucositis during chemo: the Chemo Mouthpiece™. This advanced oral cryotherapy device can cool the entire mouth uniformly, causing the blood vessels in the area to constrict and limiting access to the area for harmful chemo drugs.

Specialized Oral Ice Pack for Fighting Mouth Sores During Chemo

If you or someone you know is going through chemotherapy or preparing to begin their treatments, remember that the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help. To use this simple oral cryotherapy device, just freeze it at home and bring it with you to your treatment, then keep it in your mouth as the chemo drugs are administered. To learn more about the power of the Chemo Mouthpiece™ and how it can help you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.

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