Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home

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Grooming and appearance

Caring for your appearance can help you feel better about yourself. It’s especially important when you are ill, because it can be harder to feel good about yourself when you are sick.

Along with routine hygiene, you might want to put extra time and energy into the way you look. Looking your best can help you feel more confident and in control.

What the patient can do

  • Keep up with your regular grooming habits, such as shaving, putting on make-up, and fixing your hair, even if you must stay in bed.
  • If you will need a wig or toupee, see the section called “Hair loss.”
  • Have your clothes altered if you lose or gain weight.
  • Pamper yourself. Have a massage, or buy something that makes you feel good. (Check with your doctor or nurse first, especially before getting manicures, pedicures, or waxing in salons or spas. Some don’t adequately clean tools and basins.)
  • Nails may start to separate from the nail bed during treatment. It helps to keep them short so that they don’t catch on things.
  • Nails may discolor during cancer treatment. Nail polish is usually OK; but check with your cancer care team and plan to use a mild (non-acetone based) polish remover. Don’t use artificial or glue-on nails during and for a few months after treatment.
  • Use clean tools to gently cut, clean, and file nails. Push cuticles back rather than cutting them.
  • Protect hands and nails with household gloves during chores to reduce exposure to soaps and cleaning agents. Use moisturizing creams after hand washing.
  • Use an electric razor for routine shaving to prevent nicks and cuts.
  • Exercise each day, as much as you can manage comfortably. Ask your doctor or nurse about an exercise plan. (See the section called “Exercise.”)
  • Get enough rest.
  • Keep up with regular mouth care. But you should talk with your cancer care team before setting up dental cleanings or other procedures during treatment.

What caregivers can do

  • When the patient is strong enough, encourage them to go on short outings they enjoy.
  • Help the patient keep a supply of their preferred toiletries, lotions, and grooming supplies on hand.

Last Medical Review: 11/05/2013
Last Revised: 11/05/2013