Why Hydration is Important during cancer treatment

At some point in our lives, we will be touched by cancer, whether it be to your own body, or one of your family, friends or work colleagues.

Treatment for cancer sufferers can be extremely debilitating, particularly in terms of drugs currently used in its treatment, such as chemotherapy. It is vitally important that both diet and hydration are considered as part of the treatment therapy, as no doubt, the provision of such strong drugs will have other effects on your body.

Keeping your body well hydrated with the use of water nutrient foods, such as vegetables and high water content fruits will certainly help in your recovery process, but even though these will help, water is still imperative, and of course, far more easily accessible and palatable in quantity.

Although it is feasible to go a long time without food, this is not the case with water – you can only survive without water for a few days. Dehydration sets in, you lose electrolyte balance and your organs will begin to shut down.

Possible effects of drug therapy on your body

Chronic illness can often cause dehydration which exacerbates the initial diagnosis and can result in knock on effects to the rest of your organs. Lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes can often cause the individual to urinate very frequently, thereby dehydrating the body at a faster rate.

Drug therapy, whether it is for the treatment of cancer or not, can and will cause dehydration. These are instances where it may occur:

  • Drugs applied intravenously – this may cause fluid loss particularly if you have tubes that are draining fluid away from your system. It is essential to hydrate if this is the case.
  • Medication – certain drugs or drug therapy can cause you to perspire more, and feel incredibly hot and thirsty. More hydration is necessary as you will lose fluid through your sweat and your electrolyte levels could decrease.
  • Fluid loss – Cancer treatment such as chemotherapy can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in many individuals, creating critical fluid loss. Your specialised medical practitioner will advise you on the required hydration levels for your particular illness, but there is no doubt that you will require extra water or rehydrating fluids.
  • Infections – cancer treatment can result in more susceptibility to illness caused by infections. This can result in fever and sweating, so once again, hydration is very important.

Thirst is not always a sign of dehydration, so remember our 3-point check list to see if you are suffering from lack of fluids:-

  • Press your fingertips – after pressing, the tips should return to their normal pink colour
  • Pinch your skin on a fleshy part of your body i.e. back of your arm. Your skin should quickly snap back to where it was – if not, you could be dehydrated.

Check the colour of your urine (see our ‘pee chart’ below). If you are above Level 3, you may well be dehydrated, but there could be other causes – best to be as cautious as possible.

Above all, if in any doubt about your hydration levels whilst you are on drug therapy for any illness, consult your doctor at your earliest opportunity if you are having symptoms of any kind.

Please remember to carry a water bottle with you at all times, particularly if you are going to be in a stuffy waiting room, or travelling to and from a doctors or hospital appointment – you never know how long you will wait or be undergoing treatment.

Healthy Pee Chart

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