TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF COMMON SIDE EFFECTS OF CANCER TREATMENT
What causes the side effects from chemotherapy treatments?
Because cancer cells grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells, many chemotherapy drugs are made to kill growing
cells. But certain normal, healthy cells also grow quickly and chemotherapy can affect these cells, causing side effects.
The fast-growing normal cells most likely to be affected are blood cells formed in the bone marrow and cells in the digestive
system (mouth, stomach, intestines, esophagus), reproductive system (sex organs) and the hair. Some chemotherapy
drugs may affect the cells in the heart, kidney, bladder, lungs and nervous system.
You may have none of these side effects or just a few. The kind of side effects you have and how bad they are depends
on the type and dose of chemotherapy you get and how your body reacts. Your doctor or nurse will talk about the side
effects you may have with the drugs you will be taking.
How long will the side effects last?
Normal cells usually recover when chemotherapy is over, so most side effects gradually go away after treatment ends, and
the healthy cells have a chance to grow normally. The time it takes to recover from side effects depends on many things,
including your overall health and the kind of chemotherapy you have been taking.
New therapies have been developed to help control the side effects of chemotherapy. Some of the newer medications
used to treat cancer do not cause as much harm to normal cells. Sometimes people receiving chemotherapy become
discouraged about the side effects they may be having. If that happens to you, talk with your doctor or the nursing staff.
They may be able to suggest ways to make the side effects easier to deal with or reduce them.
Coping with side effects from radiation therapy
The side effects from radiation therapy vary from patient to patient. You may have no side effects or only a few mild ones
through your course of treatment. However, some people do have serious side effects from treatment, depending mostly
on the radiation dose and the part of your body treated. Your general health also can affect how your body reacts to
radiation therapy and whether you have side effects. Before beginning treatment, your doctor or nurse will talk with you
about the side effects you might experience and ways to treat them.
Like side effects from chemotherapy, most side effects from radiation will go away a few weeks after the completion of
treatment. If you begin to have side effects, please talk with your nurse or doctor as they will have ways to help you deal
Common side effects and tips for treating them
Fatigue - feeling tired and lacking energy - is the most common symptom reported by cancer patients. The exact cause
is not known; it can be due to many things. Fatigue from cancer is different from fatigue of everyday life in that it can
appear suddenly. Not everyone feels the same kind of fatigue. It can last days, weeks or months but will gradually go
away as the tumor responds to treatment.
TAB FOUR | TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF patient guide