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Madrid, July 5, 2022 – With the help of their medical team, cancer patients can safely plan their vacations and make them compatible with their treatment. The aim is that patients can enjoy some rest and leisure time without it affecting their adhering to their treatment, which is essential at any time of the year. To make it possible, Carmen Vazquez, Director of Nursing at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, explains how healthcare professionals can adapt treatment plans to help patients out.

So, depending on the needs of each individual patient, the oncologist might decide that treatment may be delayed by a few days, depending on the patient’s personal circumstances, the type of treatment and the phase they are in. The assessment will always be personalized. “There may be variations in treatment depending on the patient’s evolution and response, tolerance to the treatment and any side effects that may occur. For example, a low immune system always means that administration of the treatment must be delayed”, explains Ms. Vazquez. There are a whole series of factors that must be taken into account in each case and which the medical team and the patient can discuss before organizing a vacation.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be able continue a patient’s treatment and that it be fully adhered to. These are essential aspects for the survival and quality of life of people with cancer. Although adherence of cancer patients to their treatment is currently good, it can be difficult to follow while on vacation or if the patient has been on the same treatment for some time. For that reason, as Ms. Vasquez says, “we must find a balance between the desire for a vacation and the need to adhere to treatment, but it can be done. The main thing is that the patient accepts his/her reality and is aware that they must comply with our instructions”.

On the other hand, to cope with the changes that holidays bring and the return to their routine, patients can turn to a psycho-oncology professional, who is the ideal person to help them to accept how the disease can disrupt their plans.

In summer, lemonades, smoothies and low-sugar popsicles can be added to a patient’s diet

To plan for the holidays, the medical and nursing team will go over the guidelines and routine for the vacation period, particularly the diet. The primary recommendation is to eat 5 balanced meals a day, without forgetting mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, which on vacation can be fresh fruit or a fruit or vegetable smoothie.

It is also a good time to incorporate lemonades or cold infusions into the diet to ensure adequate hydration, whilst taking care not to add sugar, you can use natural sweeteners like stevia. In addition, ice creams or popsicles provide water and are usually appetizing because they are refreshing, especially in patients suffering from a dry mouth because of their treatment. The importance of good hydration lies in the fact that water helps patients maintain good kidney function and thus helps the body excrete drugs.

On the other hand, 'forbidden foods' are those considered unhealthy, especially foods containing saturated fats. You should also avoid processed foods which contain preservatives and other additives and stay away from industrial baked goods.

She goes on to say that “depending on the treatment, the taste of foods may be affected and may even be unpleasant, have a metallic taste. Each patient must find those foods or recipes that are more pleasant to make sure their calorie intake is sufficient”.

Sun protection to prevent skin damage

At the same time, everything needed for good protection against the sun must also be packed in the holiday suitcase. Heat causes weakness, fatigue and low blood pressure, so it is advisable to go out at cooler times of the day, walk early in the morning and at night; Wear loose cotton clothing that is breathable. Do not forget a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.

At the same time, chemotherapy can cause photosensitivity, and treatments can affect the skin causing dryness, redness, flakiness, darkening and blotchy skin. That is why it is important to use a high-factor sunscreen, 50 SPF (Sun Protection Factor), and moisturize the skin daily, particularly the hands and feet, where some treatments can cause cracks and extreme dryness.