Are there special concerns when it comes to dehydration and cancer treatment?

Dehydration is a common problem with cancer patients. Treatment side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, can lead to dehydration. When combined with Louisiana’s hot, humid weather, you may face a potentially dangerous situation. Our bodies are mostly made up of water, and bodily functions depend on water. When our bodies’ water levels drop just a little, symptoms may not be noticeable. However, a significant decrease may make you feel very ill.

If a patient is having problems with nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea because of cancer treatment or the cancer itself, a doctor needs to be consulted to determine if there is a way to combat these symptoms.

Cancer patients should be familiar with ways they can help themselves with these types of side effects.

It is also important for cancer patients to drink fluids and eat foods that contain fluids like fruits, vegetables and soups. If drinking is difficult, ice can help relieve dry mouth and cracked lips. Drinking a large glass of water upon waking and before bed is a good idea, as is carrying a water bottle with you and drinking small amounts through the day.

For many it is also a good idea to avoid or limit beverages with sugar and/or caffeine, such as fruit juice, soda and coffee.

These drinks may help to hydrate some, but are not as effective as low-sugar or low- or non-caffeine beverages.

If you are going to be out in hot weather, drink water before you leave. Being hydrated before losing fluids makes dehydration less likely.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration can include feeling dizzy or lightheaded, dry mouth, thirst, constipation, weakness and/or fatigue, weight loss, fever, sunken eyeballs, sticky mouth, cracked or dry tongue, infrequent urination or dark urine.

If your symptoms become severe or last longer than 12-24 hours, consult your physician.

For more information, contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273,, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

The Importance of Hydration – American Society of Clinical Oncology

Preventing Dehydration during Cancer Treatment – Oconolink

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.