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Managing Pain, Symptoms & Side Effects

Thanks to early detection and medical advances, most people are living full and fulfilling lives, their cancer cured or controlled with therapy. 

But fighting cancer is a process, not a procedure, and one that brings with it many physical and emotional challenges. At Sarasota Memorial, our team will be there with you every step of the way, providing a breadth and depth of care that has helped rank us among America’s best hospitals. 

Below you’ll find information that will help support you and your family through the treatment process and enable you to make informed choices.

Survivorship Training & Rehabilitation
Sarasota Memorial is one of the first hospitals in Florida certified to provide cancer patients with the STAR® treatment – individualized, comprehensive rehabilitation treatments designed to manage any pain, weakness, cognitive impairment or other issues that follow your cancer treatment. The nationally recognized, evidence-based Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation program helps survivors physically and emotionally heal from the side-effects of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or other cancer therapy. The program focuses on improving not only symptoms, but also personal wellness and quality of life through nutrition, exercise, relaxation and educational services.

Taking Control: What You Can Do
While you can trust in our team to support you throughout your treatment and recovery, there are things you can do to aid your recovery.

Managing Stress
Remember, there is no single right way to deal with stress. We all cope differently. There are resources all around to help you, from the specialists at the hospital and loved ones at home to support groups in the community. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of them, or to ask us for help if you’re not sure where to turn.

Control the Things You Can

  • Eat well. Good nutrition helps healing, maintains energy and reduces stress.
  • Try to get eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Walking, biking and yoga all help to reduce stress.
  • Participate in life. Continue as many of your normal activities as possible.

Seeking Support
For most, sharing their fears, feelings and concerns can be a powerful tool in helping to maintain a positive frame of mind, one of the key tools in the fight against the disease. Bonding with others involved in the same battle can be one of the most empowering steps you can take.

Contact the following cancer support centers for information about programs available in our community:

American Cancer Society
Patient Services Center (Tampa): (800) 227-2345
Sarasota Office: (941) 365-2858
Manatee Office: (941) 745-1214

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (Suncoast Chapter)
Tampa (800) 436-6889

Center of Building Hope
5481 Communications Parkway
Sarasota, FL 34240

Tidewell Hospice and Palliative Care
5955 Rand Boulevard, Sarasota
(800) 959-4291

Managing Pain

Pain is associated with some kinds of cancer. No matter the type, or how great or small the symptoms, it's important to let your doctor and nurses know if you are experiencing any pain. While it cannot always be completely relieved, appropriate treatment can greatly minimize any discomfort.

If you are staying in the hospital, let your doctor or nurse know how you're feeling at the first twinge of pain. Don't wait for it to worsen. The information could affect their treatment decisions, including extra measures to reduce your discomfort. Remember that most pain and discomfort can be minimized, and that unmanaged, pain can hinder your body’s response to treatment.

If you are experiencing pain at home, or while undergoing outpatient care, Sarasota Memorial offers the same specialized pain care planning on an outpatient basis at our conveniently located comprehensive pain care centers.

Eating Well
A healthy, balanced diet can make a big difference in how well you tolerate chemotherapy and/or radiation. We have a registered dietician on our cancer care team available to help with whatever issues you may have. So if chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy make eating and drinking difficult, be sure to talk to your doctor, nurse or our oncology nutritionist about how you can manage side effects such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, and difficulty swallowing.

You don't have to be a patient in the hospital to use our services. Outpatient consultations and visits can also be arranged by calling (941) 917-2460.

Here are some tips you can use that will help with unpleasant side effects:

  • Stay on a regular meal schedule.
  • Try not to skip meals and snacks.
  • Drink lots of liquids.
  • Potatoes, pasta, bread and cooked vegetables are all good sources of the carbohydrates you need for energy.
  • Fish, chicken, turkey, lean cuts of meat and milk, cheese and eggs are good sources of the protein your body needs to heal and build strength.
  • Eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables everyday.


Maintaining an Appetite

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Drink high calorie beverages like Ensure.
  • Eat with family and/or friends or at a restaurant.
  • Mix colors, sizes, textures and smells to make your meals look more appetizing.
  • Create an ambience in which you enjoy eating.
  • Keep things in the freezer that you only have to defrost to eat.

The physical and emotional effects of cancer can affect your sexuality. Some treatments can reduce your desire for sex or leave you nauseous and fatigued. The loss of hair, weight gain and tubes and drains that are sometimes necessary can also affect how you feel. And of course, your partner may be nervous and afraid.

Talk with your doctor. He/she may have a surgical solution to preserving nerves crucial to sexual pleasure, while medications can be changed and treatments such as Viagra and estrogen creams can help reawaken desire.

And don't be afraid to talk with your partner. There are many ways to experience the pleasures, physical and emotional, that come with a loving relationship. Cancer doesn’t have to end that.

When Someone You Love is Diagnosed with Cancer Fear, anger, anxiety, sadness, depression: everyone with cancer experiences it in his/her own way, just as their loved ones and caregivers do. And everyone has his/her own way of dealing with all the stress and emotion. Some internalize, while others direct their emotions to those around them. As a loved one and/or caregiver you must find ways to help and support the person for whom you care.

Here are some tips:

  • Listen. Listen. Listen. Encourage your loved one to share their feelings. But when they don't want to talk, don’t force the issue.
  • Try to maintain routines and keep life as normal as possible.
  • Encourage them to be active.
  • Plan to do those things you’ve always enjoyed doing together.
  • Be aware that anxiety and depression are common among cancer patients and that anxiety often appears as anger and depression as sadness.


Ultimately, the most important thing you can give is yourself: holding hands, a hug, even a simple touch can bring comfort and peace of mind.

Helping you cope with the emotional challenges of cancer: If you are unsure where to turn for help, call Sarasota Memorial’s oncology social worker at 941-917-7293. Our oncology social worker, case managers and licensed mental health professionals are here to provide support throughout your recovery.

Complementary Care
Managing some of the symptoms of cancer can be enhanced through complementary treatments, including massage therapy, meditation and relaxation techniques, herbal supplements and exercise.

These treatments are called complementary because they are used in conjunction with conventional treatments. These are not the same as “alternative” therapies sometimes used in lieu of conventional treatment.

Because cancer affects each of us differently, there is no right choice when it comes to complementary treatments. What's right for one person isn't necessarily the answer for someone else. First, decide what you want from the therapy, talk to your doctor or a member of your cancer care team. Also talk to others who have tried different approaches and do some independent research before making a decision. Beware of unproven claims associated with some alternative cancer treatments that profess to "cure" cancer. For the best outcomes, complementary therapy is most effective when combined with treatments prescribed by your doctors.

After Treatment Happily, over the past couple of decades the number of long-term cancer survivors has increased dramatically.

Sometimes cancer survivors are surprised by the mixed emotions they may experience following treatment – ranging from anxiety and depression to anger.

Our oncology social worker, mental health therapists and non-denominational chaplains are available to provide counseling and spiritual and moral support for people of all faiths 24 hours a day, every day.

It's important to remember that cancer survivors have been through a life altering experience, and while the cancer may be cured or controlled, there is still much healing of body and spirit that’s needed.

Here are some tips to facilitate that process.

  • Let family, friends and co-workers know how you feel. Don't be afraid of the emotions you feel.
  • Join a support group. We have lots of them located throughout the area.
  • Seek individual counseling.
  • Find more time for the things you enjoy.
  • Exercise. Even a short walk can make a big difference in how you feel.
  • Explore relaxation techniques such as meditation, listening to music, having a massage.
  • Eat well and eat right.
  • Laughter truly is the best medicine.
  • A pet can be your best friend, reducing stress and promoting healing.
  • Spend more time at your hobbies.


Returning to work after treatment can be difficult; getting back into the routine, answering questions from concerned co-workers, and self-imposed expectations are all issues you need to address. Here are some suggestions for handling this difficult transition:


  • Talk to your care team. They've helped hundreds make the same transition.
  • Talk to your employer before and after treatment.
  • Decide what you want your co-workers to know and what you want to keep private.
  • Understand your legal rights.
  • Financial issues are always a major concern. We have counselors that can direct you to community resources.

What is most important after treatment is to take time for yourself, your family, and your friends. You've been through a difficult time and may feel disconnected. Don't be afraid of the feelings you have and share them with those that are close to you. Think about the things that give your life purpose and meaning and the things that give you the strength to go on. And give yourself time; time to reconnect with what brings you a sense of peace and wellbeing.

Palliative/Hospice Care
Quality of life is extremely important, particularly for people whose cancers cannot be cured. Whether our patients are hospitalized or at home, we offer a spectrum services to help patients manage their symptoms and achieve pain relief. Every effort is made to assure round-the-clock emergency medical services, counseling and spiritual support. We also work collaboratively with Tidewell Hospice & Palliative Care to provide comfort care to those with advanced illness.

Community Education
From free skin cancer screenings to educational programs and demonstrations of the latest cancer treatments, browse our online community calendar or call our HealthLine (941-917-7777) to register for upcoming events hosted by Sarasota Memorial's team of cancer specialists.

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