How many days too sick to work?

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Question from Elizabeth: I just had a bilateral mastectomy and will start chemo Oct 2: 4 treatments for 4 weeks, followed by radiation and hormonal therapy. Typically, how many days will I feel too sick to work?
Answers - Ruth Oratz, M.D., F.A.C.P. This question is about the specific side effects of chemotherapy treatments. I don't know which drugs you're going to be receiving, but I assume it's one of the common regimens used to treat breast cancer. Your oncologist and oncology nurse should certainly meet with you before you begin treatment to discuss in detail which side effects you can expect and how best to prevent and manage those side effects. Some of the most common side effects from chemotherapy include fatigue, nausea, and hair loss. Fatigue is usually cumulative, and builds up gradually over the course of treatment. So with each subsequent cycle, you may feel more tired than you did with the previous cycle. But there should still be a rebound period between treatments when you have a little more energy. If there's nausea associated with your chemotherapy drugs, I'm sure your doctors will prescribe anti-nausea medicine in advance to prevent nausea and vomiting. Most often, we also recommend a specific regimen for the first few days following each chemotherapy treatment. Usually our anti-nausea treatments are very effective. Most patients tell us that they feel well for the first day or two following chemotherapy, and that the side effects seem to be most severe 3-4 days after each treatment, then gradually begin to improve over the next several days. You may wish to discuss the timing of your treatment so you can plan your work and your days off around the treatment day, and so you can know when you can expect to have days when you're not feeling so well.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Working During Treatment featured Barbara Hoffman, J.D., Irene Card, and moderator Ruth Oratz, M.D., F.A.C.P. answering your questions about the legal, financial, physical, and emotional aspects of working during breast cancer treatment.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in September 2007.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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