Medical Content

Living Your Best Life While Undergoing Chemotherapy

Feb 2, 2023

Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer that employs medication to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells.1 People can still have a social life while undergoing chemotherapy but may require more planning and precautions.2

Ways to make chemotherapy easier:1,2

  • Fatigue and mood changes are common side effects of the treatment, and getting enough rest, working part-time if necessary, and accepting help from others are essential.
  • Wash hands frequently, carry hand sanitizer, get flu shot with a doctor's approval, stay away from crowds, and take care during personal grooming to avoid infections.
  • Check with a doctor before drinking alcohol.
  • If feeling down, patients can talk to their medical team or nurse.
  • Eat freshly cooked food to prevent infections. Avoid probiotic supplements, foods, beverages, raw meat, fish, eggs, and mold-ripened or blue-veined cheeses.
  • Smoking during chemotherapy can worsen side effects, reduce treatment effectiveness by altering drug processing, and negatively impact health. Quit smoking before starting chemotherapy with a doctor's support.
  • Staying active during chemotherapy for body and mood strength. Consult the doctor for an appropriate exercise routine, start with low-intensity activities, take precautions, avoid gyms, and stop if experiencing symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy can make skin sensitive to UV light, leading to burning and skin reactions. Protect individuals with high SPF sunscreen, cover up, avoid the midday sun, reapply sunscreen, and seek shade.

Alcohol and chemotherapy2,3

The ability to drink alcohol during chemotherapy depends on the drugs being used. Alcohol and chemotherapy drugs can interact in different ways, from minor to requiring avoidance of alcohol. They are both processed by the liver, and alcohol can cause liver inflammation that interferes with chemo effectiveness. Some chemo drugs, such as Matulane and Gleostine, can lead to increased side effects such as loss of balance, headaches, nausea, and vomiting when combined with alcohol. The healthcare team will guide the patient on alcohol consumption during chemotherapy. Small amounts may stimulate appetite if able to drink, but excessive drinking is not recommended. Chemotherapy can alter the taste and result in a sore mouth, making alcohol unappealing and potentially painful, especially in spirit forms, and this will subside after treatment.

Infections and vaccines2

  • Avoid contact with individuals who may have infection like chicken pox. Inform the doctor if the patient with chemotherapy has been exposed to the disease.
  • Do not receive live vaccines while undergoing chemotherapy. Chemotherapy recipients can be near people who received live vaccines in shot form without issues. However, be cautious of oral vaccines such as the rotavirus vaccine for babies, as the individual can contract the virus for two weeks after the baby's vaccine.
  • The doctor may advise individuals and their families to get the seasonal flu vaccine. It is vital to receive the flu shot before the virus spreads, typically during winter. A conversation about getting the flu vaccine with a specialist or the medical team is essential during chemotherapy. The doctor will choose the best time to receive the dose because the therapy may cause the immune system to respond less well.

Travel and holidays2,4

People frequently arrange a vacation to mark the termination of the chemotherapy, but waiting a few weeks is advised to help them get used to regular life. Discuss with the doctor to plan treatment around holiday arrangements. Considerations include informing the hospital team, getting comprehensive travel insurance, managing the risk of blood clots, taking care of skin when sun exposure, and having access to medical care.


Chemotherapy requires planning and precautions to maintain a social life. Essential tips include managing side effects, avoiding infections and vaccines, and being cautious of alcohol consumption. Traveling and holidays require planning with the doctor and preparation to manage risks and access to medical care.


  1. What Precautions Should You Take During Chemotherapy Treatment? Healthline. [Cited: 01 February 2023]. Available from:
  2. Living with chemotherapy. Social life, alcohol, and other activities during chemotherapy. Cancer Research UK. [Cited: 01 February 2023]. Available from:
  3. Jones B. Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol During Chemotherapy? Possible Risks to Consider. Verywell health. [Cited: 01 February 2023]. Available from:
  4. Chemotherapy: lifestyle. The Royal Marsden: NHS Foundation Trust. [Cited: 01 February 2023]. Available from:,tastes%20unpleasant%20during%20chemotherapy%20treatment.

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