Understanding Cancer Dehydration

Cancer dehydration is a risk for people undergoing cancer

Cancer dehydration is a risk for people undergoing cancer treatments and is a serious condition which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

The excessive loss of body fluids, which is dehydration, occurs when your body’s fluid output exceeds its fluid intake.  Vomiting or diarrhoea, side effects of cancer treatments, can lead to dehydration, as can infections, high fever, bleeding or merely not drinking enough fluids.

Avoiding Cancer Dehydration And Staying Hydrated

The expert advice is to drink about 8-12 glasses of water a day. and whilst this figure is disputed by some researcher, scientists agree that most people don’t drink enough. So, in general, if you aim to drink  8 glasses of water a say you should not get dehydrated.

However, if you have cancer therapy side effects such as diarrhoea or vomiting, you would need to drink more than 8 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated and avoid cancer dehydration

Ways to make sure you stay hydrated include

Drink a lot.

Although it seems obvious it is not always easy to drink a lot if you feel sick.  A lot of small sips can help and keeping a water bottle with you at all times is a good reminder to drink.  Sucking on small pieces of ice works can help improve your fluid intake, but you will need a lot of ice.

Avoid caffeine

Yes you need to drink a lot, but only the right sort of fluids, water and juices are good but drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea and some fizzy drinks coke, acts as a diuretic.  They will flush water out of your system which is the opposite of what you want to achieve.

Keeping track of your fluid intake and output

It’s not easy to tell how much fluid you’re losing unless you measure it and you need to measure what is coming in and going out.  This is information useful for both you and your doctor.

To measure what is coming out is not easy at all, but if you keep a note of how many times you’re having diarrhoea or vomiting that is a good indication of what is going on.   It is also important to measure how much fluid you’re taking in. If you use a water bottle or cup that contains a set amount of fluid you can track how many times you drink it dry.

Eat food with a high water content

Liquid in solid food counts toward your daily total.  So you can eat healthily and stay hydrated at the same time. Some fruits and vegetables are more than 90% water. Try watermelon, celery, cucumbers, grapefruit and tomatoes which are all 90 percent water

Symptoms Of Cancer Dehydration

To tell if you are dehydrated lightly pinch and pull up your skin.  If it stays standing up in a tent, this is a sign that you are dehydrated.

The symptoms of mild dehydration are:

  • dry, sticky mouth
  • feeling sleepy
  • getting thirsty
  • decreased urine
  • few or no tears
  • headache
  • dizziness

Severe dehydration, which is a medical emergency causes:

  • extreme thirst
  • irritability
  • extreme fatigue
  • confusion
  • lack of sweating
  • sunken eyes
  • low blood pressure
  • fever

You need to talk to your doctor immediately if you have any of the symptoms of severe cancer dehydration. 

What To Do If  You have Mild Dehydration

  • Don’t drink a lot too at once. Sip fluids slowly, gradually drinking more and more.
  • Suck on ice cubes to keep your lips and mouth moist.
  • Eat foods that have a plenty of fluid, such as watermelon or cucumbers.
  • Use lip balm or salve if your lips are dry, and lotion on dry skin.
  • Fill a small cooler with clean ice and small bottles of fluid (water or juice) and keep it close by so to drink frequently

Last thought

We hope that this article has been useful and informative, if you have any additional comments on this article please do contact us.  If you have any concerns that you are dehydrated please do contact your doctor.

Article Sources

4 Things You Should Know About Cancer and Dehydration

Dehydration: Breast Cancer Org

Hydration in cancer patients.

Dr Shara Cohen

Dr Cohen started her working life as a research scientist and lecturer with over 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications.

She followed a classical scientific career until she left mainstream science in 2000 (which coincided with the birth of her first daughter) to establish the Life Science Communications company, Euroscicon Ltd.

Euroscicon Ltd was her first company (which she sold in 2016).

In 2013 she was diagnosed with Cancer and set up Cancer Care Parcel

She also works with and establishes businesses and charities which benefit local, national and international communities via her company – The Pein Consultancy Ltd

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