Treatment for metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) starts with your doctor, but ultimately, you will need to be engaged in your own care. Your responsibilities can range from cleaning your incision site after surgery, to adjusting your diet to account for changes in your appetite or an increased need for calories.
Here are seven tips to help you stay on top of your RCC home care regimen.
1. Understand your treatment plan.
There are several ways to treat RCC, including surgery, targeted therapy, biologic therapy, radiation, and chemotherapy. Find out what your treatment plan involves, how it will help you, and what you’ll need to do at home to keep yourself healthy. Get written instructions on how to take your medicine, clean your surgical wounds, and manage your pain. If anything isn’t clear to you, ask your doctor for more detailed instructions.
2. Eat right.
Maintaining a healthy diet is always important, but it’s critical while you’re being treated for cancer. You need to eat the right balance of calories and nutrients to maintain your strength and give you energy. Some treatments, such as chemotherapy, can take away your appetite or make you feel too nauseated to eat. Other medications may make you uncomfortably constipated.
Ask your doctor or a dietitian who specializes in cancer nutrition to offer suggestions on the type of diet you should eat. To manage nausea, you might need to switch to a bland diet, or eat several small meals during the day instead of three large meals. To combat constipation, add more fiber and fluids to your diet. It’s important to get enough calories, especially when you’re healing from surgery. Protein shakes, such as Ensure, can help.
3. Get enough rest.
Cancer and its treatments can wear you out. Make sure you get enough sleep. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning to get your body into a sleep routine. Take naps during the day when you feel exhausted.
Pace your activities. Break up big tasks into smaller chunks so they’re more manageable. Get help from friends, neighbors, and family members with errands like grocery shopping and laundry, so you have more time to rest.
4. Stay physically active.
Though you might feel too tired to work out, exercise is one of the best ways to keep your energy levels up. Regular exercise can also restrengthen your muscles after surgery and help you lose weight if you’re overweight. Try to walk, ride a bike, or do another form of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
Take it slowly to start — especially if you’re recovering from surgery. You might only be able to walk at a slow pace for a few minutes at first, but eventually your strength and stamina will improve.
5. Manage your pain.
If you have surgery to remove your kidney, such as a radical nephrectomy, you may be in pain for a few days or weeks. Cancer that has spread to your bones or other organs can also cause pain.
Don’t try to suffer through your pain. Your doctor should have given you medicine to help control it. Take the medicine when you need it, but just make sure you don’t take more than the prescribed dose. If your pain lasts longer than you anticipated or it’s too severe to tolerate, ask your doctor what other strategies you can try to manage it.
6. Keep up with your check-ups.
No matter which cancer treatment you get, you’ll have follow-up visits every few months with your oncologist. These appointments are important to help your doctor stay on top of any health changes, and make sure your cancer hasn’t progressed.
During each appointment, your doctor will track your cancer with blood tests and imaging scans like X-rays and ultrasounds. Go to every scheduled check-up and bring a list of any questions you have about your home care routine.
7. Communicate with your treatment team.
Don’t wait for your scheduled appointments to ask questions or get help with problems you’re having at home. Tell your oncologist, nurses, and other support team members right away if you have any trouble following your home care routine. Also, contact them immediately if you have side effects from your treatment, such as fever, intense pain, swelling or redness around an incision, nausea and vomiting, or bleeding.