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Long-Term Planning

There are steps that you can take to manage certain side effects before treatment, some of which may minimize long-term complications that can be caused by treatment-associated side effects. You should first discuss the side effects with your physician, along with their recommendations for management of side effects.

The following precautions and plans may apply to you, depending on the type of treatments that you are likely to receive as part of your treatment plan:

  • Dental evaluation: See a dentist for an evaluation and pretreatment dental work prior to starting radiation
  • Prophylactic fluoride teeth treatment: If you are likely to receive radiation therapy, you are at higher risk for developing cavities; this side effect has been attributed to decreased salivation. Prophylactic fluoride treatment is recommended to protect your teeth during and after treatment, and decrease the long-term risk of developing cavities.
  • Consult a registered nutritionist and speech pathologist: Many of the treatment-associated side effects can impair the desire to eat, such as severe mucositis or nausea and vomiting. In addition, some of the treatments can cause function loss and impair swallowing. Therefore, prior to the treatment, the nutritionist should provide recommendations specific to the treatment, such as food to avoid, in addition to strategies to implement in case there are problems obtaining adequate nutrition.Strategies as to how to eat if eating becomes difficult can also be provided. You can also learn swallowing exercises to do daily during and after your treatment, which should help you maintain the ability to swallow.
  • Begin an exercise program: Most patients will experience cancer-related fatigue during and after their treatment, and it may be so extreme that they will not be able to do their normal activities. Because exercise has been found to decrease cancer-related fatigue, patients may want to consider implementing an exercise program prior to the initiation of therapy, which may help them after treatment.
  • Find a support group: Patients report experiencing stress and anxiety. Moreover, one in three patients experiences moderate depression even 10 years after receiving radiation therapy. Participating in patient support groups has been associated with improved quality of life. You may want to consider identifying and participating in a support group.
The loss of speech and the ability to eat solid food is the most emotionally and physically challenging part. Once you have a routine down, you can deal with it. Barry J. (tongue cancer survivor)

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