Playing your part during treatment


Everyone's cancer journey is unique so your multidisciplinary team will work together to come up with a treatment plan determined by your needs. You can help by listening to their advice and by following their instructions implicitly.

Aside from prioritising your health during cancer treatment there are also other ways you can help yourself. It's important to remember that although everyone responds to cancer therapy differently, there are some general guidelines on how to get the most out of your treatment and how to take care of yourself.

However if these guidelines differ from those supplied by your treatment team, follow their guidelines instead as they are specific to your type of cancer, your treatment plan and your envisioned outcomes.

  • Get plenty of rest and sleep. Extreme tiredness and exhaustion are common during treatment as your body will use a lot of extra energy in the healing process. This can continue for up to six weeks after your treatment has ended.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of vitamin-rich vegetables and fruit, even when you don't feel like eating. Good nutrition plays a major role during your cancer treatment, as it does when it comes to both cancer prevention and to survivorship. Read up on this in detail here.
  • Don't eat for a few hours before your chemotherapy treatment.
  • Eat a number of small meals throughout the day rather than three big ones.
  • Avoid hot or spicy foods.
  • Avoid strong smells.
  • Speak to your cancer specialist about how to avoid nausea or how to manage it.
  • Listen to our podcast and learn from experts on healthy eating during- and post-cancer treatment here.
  • Tell your doctor about medications or supplements you're taking. Before starting treatment, make sure your doctor knows about any medication you are taking and if you have any allergies. Always check with your doctor before you take vitamin supplements or herbal remedies.
  • Don't wear tight-fitting clothes, especially if you get radiotherapy. This can irritate your skin in the treatment area. Choose soft, loose-fitting cotton garments instead.
  • Don't use any beauty products - if you undergo radiation therapy - without speaking to your doctor first. Try not to scratch, rub, shave or scrub sensitive treated areas, or use any sticky tape or plasters on affected areas.
  • Always protect your skin from the sun especially during radiation therapy.
  • Avoid infection while having chemotherapy by staying away from people who you know are ill or situations that could lead to a high infection risk such as large public gatherings.
  • Save energy by asking friends and family for help, and taking short naps.
  • Don't try to multitask. Always be realistic about doing chores and activities and what you can really manage.
  • Plan your days around your treatment. Remember that there will be times when your energy levels are low so organise your to-do list around your good days.
  • Try to do some exercise every day. Read more about this here.
  • Cut back on caffeine especially at night, to ensure a good night's sleep. Talk to your doctor about the impact of caffeine on your healing and treatment.
  • Drink at least four to six glasses of water every day to ensure you're well hydrated.
  • Keep your medical team informed about how you are feeling.
  • Don't be a martyr. Rather ask for pain medication which will help you to feel stronger and better able to cope. Practice pain management by taking your medicine at the prescribed times and not waiting for the pain to become intense.
  • Speak to your counsellor about alternative methods of coping such as relaxation, massage and visualisation. These can help to reduce and control pain, lower anxiety and help you to sleep better.

Severe illness can be life-changing. Discovery is here for you

At Discovery, we understand that an illness like cancer affects many aspects of your life. If you're a Discovery Health Medical Scheme member who is diagnosed with cancer, you are covered by a comprehensive Oncology Programme. You'll also have access to a palliative care programme, which offers unlimited cover for approved care at home.

To protect you financially, Discovery Life offers the best dread disease product in the market for cancer cover, as awarded by the Independent Clinical Oncology Network. Our award-winning LifeTime Max 200% Severe Illness Benefit offers coverage across the full spectrum of severities and coverage for remission of a cancer. Contact us to learn more.

The Discovery Health Medical Scheme is an independent non-profit entity governed by the Medical Schemes Act, and regulated by the Council for Medical Schemes. It is administered by a separate company, Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd, an authorised financial services provider.


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