Coping with a Fever After Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma

Older patient with a fever in bed

Everyone, it seems, has their own opinion of what the thermostat should be set to. Some people want to save money on the electric bill by limiting the air conditioning (or heat in the winter). Others prefer to stay comfortable, no matter the cost.

If you’re caring for someone with mesothelioma, it’s time to give up the fight.

You may need to keep the house much cooler or warmer than you would prefer, especially for patients who develop a fever after chemotherapy.

A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Hyperthermia states that patients with various types of cancer report “thermal discomfort symptoms” and “feel excessively hot and/or cold under ambient temperature conditions in which others are able to adjust easily to achieve thermal comfort.”

The researchers also state that “this problem can create significant quality of life problems which may be largely underappreciated by caregivers.”

Room temperature is a big deal for cancer patients, and body temperature is an even bigger deal. Caregivers need to monitor the thermostat, but they also need to check the patient’s body temperature.

The best solution: Put on a sweatshirt or a T-shirt and shorts, depending on the situation.

Fevers Are Common After Chemotherapy & Surgery

If the patient you care for is undergoing chemotherapy for mesothelioma or has recently completed the therapy, it’s a good idea to check their body temperature regularly. You can do this using an inexpensive oral thermometer, available at drugstores as well as Wal-Mart and Target.

Mesothelioma patients who feel warm or cold should have their temperature taken every few hours. Caregivers should keep a record of the readings, so the doctor can track progress over time.

According to the American Cancer Society, a temperature over 100.5 F could indicate an infection.

Infections are more common in patients getting chemotherapy because the treatment depletes their white blood cells. The body develops a fever as it “heats up” to fight the infection.

A fever is also common after surgery. Some doctors will prescribe antibiotics after surgery to prevent infections before they start.

After surgery, the mesothelioma doctor will instruct the patient and the caregiver in the proper procedures. You may need to inspect the incision to make sure there is no sign of infection, too. Caregivers also will likely need to replace the dressings on the incision, as directed by the doctor.

Other possible causes of fever include:

  • Inflammatory illness
  • Drug reactions
  • Tumor growth

If you suspect a mesothelioma patient has a fever, contact their doctor right away. If it’s after hours, you can usually page them by calling their regular phone number and listening for instructions.

In some cases, the doctor may instruct you to go to the emergency room, where doctors can administer antibiotics or perform blood tests.

Signs of a Fever in a Cancer Patient

The American Cancer Society instructs caregivers and patients to look for the following signs that may indicate a fever:

  • Increased skin temperature
  • Feeling warm
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Feeling cold
  • Shaking chills
  • Body aches
  • Skin rashes
  • Any new area of redness or swelling
  • Pus or yellowish discharge from an injury or other location
  • New cough or shortness of breath
  • New belly pain
  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • Sore throat
  • The patient is confused, becomes forgetful, isn’t making sense, or can’t tell you where they are.

How to Prevent or Treat a Fever

Caregivers should offer mesothelioma patients plenty of liquids, including water, fruit juice and soup. It’s also important the patient gets plenty of sleep during treatment to help the body recover.

Patients can use a cold pack on their forehead if they feel too warm, but make sure the doctor also is called if the body temperature is 100.5 F or higher. You should only dispense fever medication if the patient’s doctor orders it.

Caregivers need ensure that any visitors to the home do not have a fever, cold or flu. Family members and friends need to recover themselves before visiting a mesothelioma patient’s home.

In the 2011 study, researchers acknowledged there is more to learn regarding thermal discomfort symptoms in cancer patients.

They stated: “In general, there is surprisingly little information on the physiological relationship between body temperature regulation, vasomotor symptoms, and cancer growth and progression.”

  1. Kokolus, K.M., et al. (2011, January 1). Feeling too hot or cold after breast cancer: Is it just a nuisance or a potentially important prognostic factor? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3012377/
  2. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home: Fever. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/dealingwithsymptomsathome/caring-for-the-patient-with-cancer-at-home-fever

Jennifer Mia has been writing and editing for more than 15 years. She has worked for newspapers, magazines and online publications. When she was in college, she lost a brother to cancer, and now she writes blogs for The Mesothelioma Center. Jennifer hopes that her writing brings some small amount of hope and healing to the many men and women who are forced to deal with this horrible cancer.

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