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Caring for yourself while battling cancer

Published:Monday | October 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Cathy Risden, Lifestyle Writer

Chemotherapy is a road often travelled for those coping with cancer, particularly breast cancer. While the cases of men having breast cancer are few, and far between, the ones who are experiencing this illness share side effects similar to women. Today, Flair will address issues of grooming, namely hair loss, skin and nail changes, which occur during chemotherapy.

According to Dr Jennifer Mamby-Alexander, cytopathologist and author of A Practical Guide to Coping with Cancer - chemotherapy lowers the blood count, so men should avoid getting cuts. She mentioned it can be overwhelming when your whole body is affected so easily because of this treatment that keeps you alive, but your health is your responsibility. Mamby-Alexander went on to share tips on how men can properly care for their bodies during chemotherapy.

Avoid getting cut while shaving

Shave regularly, but be very careful not to get cut. "If one gets cut while shaving, there may be excessive bleeding and the development of infections," said Alexander. She also expressed that while chemotherapy is to prevent and destroy cancer cells, it causes the blood count to drop, hence there is no defence against infections - cuts take longer to heal and can cause great pain. Alexander continued, saying some men are very hesitant to shave because of the fear of cutting themselves because of this trauma, but this should not prevent men from taking care of themselves. "You have to be careful when you shave your heads, beards and body," she added.

Hair Care

According to Mamby-Alexander, hair loss occurs during chemo, but unlike women, that is never an issue for men. They usually can wait for it to regrow. However, whether or not hair loss is experienced, she advises men to:

Wear a hat for sun protection especially if the head is bald.

Use a mild shampoo and conditioner.

Use a brush with soft bristles.

Do not dye hair during this period.

Do not use a hot hair dryer.

Caring the Teeth

"Beautiful teeth are a good grooming statement," said Mamby-Alexander. Many fear the dentist, but Mamby-Alexander said that it is always advised to see the dentist to fill cavities and to have teeth cleaned before chemo begins. To properly care for your teeth, one should:

Try to fix poorly fitted dentures and attend to gum disease.

Use a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol and keep toothbrushes clean and dry. This will prevent infections, cavities and bleeding from gum disease during treatment.

Use a soft brush.

Skin and nail care

Mamby-Alexander expressed that skin and nails may darken during chemo. She shared things that one can do to protect the skin and nails.

Avoid direct sunlight and wear a sunblock.

Wear protective clothing over arms and legs and maybe hats to protect the face from the sun. Sometimes acne develops.

Rub cornstarch on the area.

Eating well and drinking lots of water help the skin from becoming dry.

Cut and clean nails regularly.

Wash hands regularly.

cathy.risden@gleanerjm.com