What are some side effects?
Just as every person is different, every cancer is different. Depending on the type of cancer a person has and their overall health, they may or may not experience side effects from the treatment they are receiving for their cancer.
Many advancements have been made to help minimize side effects that a person may experience when being treated for cancer. Certain medications can help to avoid unpleasant side effects such as nausea and vomiting. Other medications can help lower a patient’s risk for infection while being treated.
One of the most common side effects with any cancer treatment is fatigue. Getting plenty of rest will lessen the feeling of fatigue give your body time for healing. Staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet, and staying active will also help you feel better. Our care team can provide helpful information about other ways to manage side effects.
If you have any of the following side effects, it’s very important to call our office:
Fever over 100.4, with / without chills
Blood in urine, stools, or sputum
Breathing difficulty including shortness of breath
Cough that produces yellow, green, brown or red sputum
Dehydration: excessive thirst, dark urine, decreased urination
Difficulty swallowing or eating / mouth sores
Dizziness, light-headedness, exhaustion or extreme weakness
Nausea, vomiting, constipation or uncontrolled diarrhea
Unusual or sudden onset of swelling, redness, or pain
Urination that is frequent, urgent or painful / Low back pain
Sometimes the side effects of treatment don’t occur for months or years after a person has received cancer treatment. It’s important for you and your oncologist to discuss any side effects that you are currently experiencing and potential late-term effects that you will need to be aware of.
Helpful Patient Resources:
The National Cancer Institute provides medical advice and practical tips to help you during chemotherapy. Learn about self-care, medical problems to call your doctor about, and questions to ask your doctor on topics including:
Anemia: Practical advice about anemia, tips to help people with cancer feel less tired, and signs to call your doctor about.
Appetite Loss: Practical tips to help people with cancer make eating easier, stay strong during chemotherapy and manage appetite changes.
Bleeding and Bruising: Practical steps to help people with cancer prevent bleeding problems during chemotherapy and know what problems to call your doctor about.
Constipation: Practical tips to help people with cancer prevent or relieve constipation and feel better during chemotherapy. Learn what foods can help and key questions to ask your doctor.
Diarrhea: Practical information to help people with cancer prevent or relieve diarrhea and feel better during chemotherapy. Learn what foods and drinks may help you feel better and what problems to call your doctor about.
Fatigue: Practical tips to help people with cancer make a plan to feel less tired and fatigued during chemotherapy.
Hair Loss (Alopecia): Practical tips on how others have coped with hair loss (also called alopecia) during chemotherapy.
Lymphedema: Practical information for people with cancer about ways to manage and treat lymph fluid build up and know when to call your doctor.
Memory Changes: Practical information about what causes memory changes during chemotherapy.
Mouth and Throat Changes: Practical steps that people with cancer can take if their mouth or throat hurts during chemotherapy. Learn about a mouth rinse that can help, what foods to avoid, and questions to ask your doctor.
Nausea and Vomiting: Practical tips and advice to help people with cancer prevent nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy. Learn what foods and drinks are easy on your stomach.
Nerve Changes: Practical information about nerve changes (also called peripheral neuropathy) and tips that have helped others during chemotherapy. Learn what changes to call your doctor about and questions to ask your doctor.
Pain: Practical advice to help people with cancer prevent or manage pain during chemotherapy treatment. Tips to help you track your pain, get the most from your pain medicine, and know when to call your doctor.
Sexual and Fertility Changes in Men: Practical information and answers to questions from men about sexual problems or fertility changes due to chemotherapy. Learn what questions to ask your doctor before treatment starts.
Sexual and Fertility Changes in Women: Practical information and answers to questions from women about sexual problems or fertility changes due to chemotherapy. Learn what questions to ask your doctor before treatment starts.
Skin and Nail Changes: Practical information to help people with cancer care for their skin and nails during chemotherapy and problems to call their doctor about.
Sleep Problems: Practical information about ways to manage sleep problems and ways your doctor can help.
Getting Help for Sleep Problems:
Swelling (Fluid Retention): Practical information for people with cancer about what causes swelling (fluid retention) during chemotherapy, steps to take to prevent it, and when to call their doctor.
Urination Changes: Practical information about how to prevent or manage changes in urination during chemotherapy, problems to call your doctor about, and questions to ask your doctor.
The American Cancer Society also has some very good resources to help you deal with the following side effects:
Getting Help for Cancer Pain:
Getting Help for Chemo Brain:
Getting Help for Distress:
Getting Help for Diarrhea:
Getting Help for Fatigue:
Getting Help for Mouth Sores:
Getting Help for Nausea and Vomiting:
Getting Help for Skin Changes:
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What are some questions I should ask my Oncologist?
If possible, it is nice for the patient to bring a family member or friend to your appointments be a second set of ears. It is an emotional time for the patient, and it’s not uncommon to forget a lot of the information, especially during in the first few appointments. It’s a good idea to take notes, so that you can refer to them later to answer questions you may have.
It’s also a good idea to write down any questions or concerns you have prior to meeting with your oncologist so that he/she can make sure they have addressed your concerns.
Other common questions include:
Can I continue all my current medications?
Are there dietary restrictions or vitamins/supplements I should take or avoid?
Will this affect my ability to work?
Will I need to be in the hospital to receive treatment?
How will my treatment affect my daily activities and is there anything I should avoid or begin doing?
Can I get vaccinations before or during treatment? (Hepatitis C, Shingles, Pneumonia, Influenza)
Can I have non-cancer related surgery (i.e. knee or hip surgery) while on treatment?
Should I see a dentist prior to starting treatment?
How often do I need to schedule appointments?
What type of follow up can I expect during and once treatment is completed?
Should I get a second opinion?
Importance of full dose on schedule
Studies show that for certain types of cancer, chemotherapy produces the best long-term results when patients receive the full dose on time every time. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan scientifically designed for you and based on your type of cancer, its stage of advancement, and your overall health. The plan will consist of specific chemotherapy agents at specific doses and intervals. This is called your “scheduled cycles.” Generally, treatments are given daily, weekly, or monthly, and your doctor will work with you to determine the most effective treatment schedule. To get the most from chemotherapy, it’s important to stick to a schedule of treatment and dose that you and your doctor initially set up.