9 Ways to Fight Chemo's Roughest Side Effects
Dignicap: This FDA-cleared device is a snug silicone cap filled with circulating coolant, which restricts blood flow to the scalp, minimizing follicles' exposure to chemicals.
Iron: Many cancer patients are iron deficient, whether from the disease itself, chemotherapy, blood loss, or major organ problems, which can cause hair to stop growing or shed prematurely. Upping levels with supplements or iron-rich foods, like lean meat and lentils, and then adding vitamin C, which helps with iron absorption, may slow hair loss.
Essential fatty acids: A small study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that a supplement containing fish oil and black currant seed oil, excellent sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, respectively, reduced hair loss, and improved strands' diameter and density after six months.
Peppermint: This plant's powerful essential oil reduced the intensity of nausea and frequency of vomiting within the first 24 hours after chemo in one small study.
Ginger: Research suggests that ginger may help lessen chemo-induced nausea, especially if taken before treatment.
Acupuncture: Acupuncturists can focus on points associated with fighting nausea, such as the inner wrist. See a licensed practitioner who has worked in cancer care.
Dance: No doubt chemo can be exhausting, but a little movement has surprising benefits for cancer patients: A small German study found that dancing may help manage moderate to severe cancer-related fatigue and that the added social engagement fights postdiagnosis depression.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Eliminating self-defeating thoughts, reframing your body image, and setting healthy goals—all aspects of CBT—can have a big impact. Look for a therapist who specializes in cancer care.
Ginseng: A 2013 study funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation looked at the effect a 2,000-milligram daily dose of Wisconsin ginseng had on cancer patients, half of whom had breast cancer, over eight weeks. Ginseng takers experienced significantly less fatigue than those given a placebo. Look for the Wisconsin Ginseng Seal.
By the Numbers: 74
The percentage of chemo patients whose nausea was reduced over the first 24 hours after treatment by taking the generic drug olanzapine, an antipsychotic, according to a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine. It's been prescribed off-label for regimens with a high or moderate nausea risk, says Sanford Health oncologist Steven Powell, MD, one of the study's coauthors; now the evidence may support wider use.