Side effects during and after treatments

Half of all men and a third of women will get a diagnosis of cancer in their lifetime.The good news is that  many people with cancer do survive.

 Living with the disease is a big challenge . It can change your routines, roles and relationships. It can cause money and work problems. The treatment can change the way you feel and look. Learning and reading {books about cancer}more about ways you can help yourself may ease some of your concerns. Support from others is important.

All cancer survivors should have follow-up care. Knowing what to expect after cancer treatment can help you and your family make plans, lifestyle changes, and important decisions.

Cancer treatments and cancer can cause side effects. Side effects are problems that occur when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs.They may lower your appetite or change the way food tastes or smells.

Dealing with cancer is a life-changing event for most people. For many, it can be a time to minimize regrets and make new priorities. Try to live each day as normally as you can. Enjoy the simple things you like to do and take pleasure in big events. 

Speak up about any side effects , or changes you notice, so your health care team can treat or help you to reduce these side effects. 

Be aware about the side effects listed below:

  • Anxiety –a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

  • Anemia is a condition that can make you feel very tired, short of breath, and lightheaded. Other signs of anemia may include feeling dizzy or faint, headaches, a fast heartbeat, and/or pale skin.

  • Appetite-Cancer Treatments may lower your appetite or the change the way food tastes or smells.

  • Bleeding– Some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and targeted therapy, can increase your risk of bleeding and bruising. These treatments can lower the number of platelets in the blood. Platelets are the cells that help your blood to clot and stop bleeding. When your platelet count is low, you may bruise or bleed a lot or very easily and have tiny purple or red spots on your skin. This condition is called thrombocytopenia. It is important to tell your doctor or nurse if you notice any of these changes.

  • Constipation

    Constipation is when you have infrequent bowel movements and stool that may be hard, dry, and difficult to pass. You may also have stomach cramps, bloating, and nausea when you are constipated.Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can cause constipation. Certain medicines (such as pain medicines), changes in diet, not drinking enough fluids, and being less active may also cause constipation.

  • DepressionA mental condition marked by ongoing feelings of sadness, despair, loss of energy, and difficulty dealing with normal daily life.

  • Diarrhea-Diarrhea means having bowel movements that are soft, loose, or watery more often than normal. If diarrhea is severe or lasts a long time, the body does not absorb enough water and nutrients. This can cause you to become dehydrated or malnourished. Cancer treatments, or the cancer itself, may cause diarrhea or make it worse. Some medicines, infections, and stress can also cause diarrhea. Tell your health care team if you have diarrhea. Diarrhea that leads to dehydration (the loss of too much fluid from the body) and low levels of salt and potassium (important minerals needed by the body) can be life threatening. Call your health care team if you feel dizzy or light headed, have dark yellow urine or are not urinating, or have a fever of 100.5 °F (38 °C) or higher.

  • Edema– a condition in which fluid builds up in your body’s tissues, may be caused by some types of chemotherapy, certain cancers, and conditions not related to cancer.

    Signs of edema may include:

    • swelling in your feet, ankles, and legs

    • swelling in your hands and arms

    • swelling in your face or abdomen

    • skin that is puffy, shiny, or looks slightly dented after being pressed

    • shortness of breath, a cough, or irregular heartbeat

    Tell your health care team if you notice swelling. Your doctor or nurse will determine what is causing your symptoms, advise you on steps to take, and may prescribe medicine.

  • Fatigue is described as feeling tired, weary, exhausted or worn out, often more intense than has ever been experienced before. Fatigue is the most common complaint of people with cancer, as it can result from the effects of the disease itself and from treatment as well.

  • Fear-One of the most common feelings people who have been treated for cancer share is their fear that their cancer will return.

  • Fertility -Many cancer treatments can affect a womas’s or a man’s fertility 

  • Hair loss -Some types of chemotherapy cause the hair on your head and other parts of your body to fall out. Radiation therapy can also cause hair loss on the part of the body that is being treated. Hair loss is called alopicia. Talk with your health care team to learn if the cancer treatment you will be receiving causes hair loss.

  • Hearing loss Progressive, irreversible hearing loss can result from radiation therapy and platinum-based chemotherapy drugs such as carboplatin and cisplatin. The drugs damage the hair cells of the inner ear, making the ear less responsive to sound waves

  • Infections-An infection is the invasion and growth of germs in the body, such as bacteria, viruses, yeast, or other fungi. An infection can begin anywhere in the body, may spread throughout the body, and can cause one or more of these signs:

    • fever of 100.5 °F (38 °C) or higher or chills

    • cough or sore throat

    • diarrhea

    • ear pain, headache or sinus pain, or a stiff or sore neck

    • skin rash

    • sores or white coating in your mouth or on your tongue

    • swelling or redness, especially where a catheter enters your body

    • urine that is bloody or cloudy, or pain when you urinate

  • Lymphedema-  is a condition in which the lymph fluid does not drain properly. It may build up in the tissues and causes swelling. This can happen when part of the lymph system is damaged or blocked, such as during surgery to remove lymph nodes, or radiation therapy. Cancers that block lymph vessels can also cause lymphedema.

    Lymphedema usually affects an arm or leg, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the head and neck. You may notice symptoms of lymphedema at the part of your body where you had surgery or received radiation therapy. Swelling usually develops slowly, over time. It may develop during treatment or it may start years after treatment.

  • Memory or concentration problems-

    Whether you have memory or concentration problems (sometimes described as a mental fog or chemo brain) depends on the type of treatment you receive, your age, and other health-related factors. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy may cause difficulty with thinking, concentrating, or remembering things. So can some types of Radiation Therapy to the brain and Immunotherapy. These cognitive problems may start during or after cancer treatment. Some people notice very small changes, such as a bit more difficulty remembering things, whereas others have much greater memory or concentration problems.

  • Mouth and Throat problems-

    Cancer treatments may cause dental, mouth, and throat problems. Radiation therapy to the head and neck may harm the salivary glands and tissues in your mouth and/or make it hard to chew and swallow safely. Some types of Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy can also harm cells in your mouth, throat, and lips. Drugs used to treat cancer and certain bone problems may also cause oral complication.Mouth and throat problems may include:

    • changes in taste  or smell

    • dry mouth

    • infections and mouth sores

    • pain or swelling in your mouth

    • sensitivity to hot or cold foods

    • swallowing problems

    • tooth decay

    Mouth problems are more serious if they interfere with eating and drinking because they can lead to dehydration  and/or mainutrition. It’s important to call your doctor or nurse if you have pain in your mouth, lips, or throat that makes it difficult to eat, drink, or sleep or if you have a fever of 100.5 °F (38 °C) or higher.

  • Nausea and vomiting- Nausea is when you feel sick to your stomach, as if you are going to throw up. Vomiting is when you throw up. There are different types of nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment, including anticipatory, acute, and delayed nausea and vomiting. Controlling nausea and vomiting will help you to feel better and prevent more serious problems such as malnutrition and dehydration.

Nerve problems-

Some cancer treatments cause peripheral neuropathy, a result of damage to the peripheral nerves. These nerves carry information from the brain to other parts of the body. Side effects depend on which peripheral nerves (sensory, motor, or autonomic) are affected.The drugs most likely to cause neuropathy include:

  • paclitaxel

  • cisplatin

  • oxaliplatin

  • epothilones

  • thalidomide

  • docetaxel

  • bortezomib

  • lenalidomide

  • pomalidomide

  • suramin

  • vincristine

Damage to sensory nerves (nerves that help you feel pain, heat, cold, and pressure) can cause:

  • tingling, numbness, or a pins-and-needles feeling in your feet and hands that may spread to your legs and arms

  • inability to feel a hot or cold sensation, such as a hot stove

  • inability to feel pain, such as from a cut or sore on your foot

Damage to motor nerves (nerves that help your muscles to move) can cause:

  • weak or achy muscles. You may lose your balance or trip easily. It may also be difficult to button shirts or open jars.

  • muscles that twitch and cramp or muscle wasting (if you don’t use your muscles regularly).

  • swallowing or breathing difficulties (if your chest or throat muscles are affected)

Damage to autonomic nerves (nerves that control functions such as blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, temperature, and urination) can cause:

  • digestive changes such as constipation or diarrhea

  • dizzy or faint feeling, due to low blood pressure

  • sexual problems; men may be unable to get an erection and women may not reach orgasm

  • sweating problems (either too much or too little sweating)

  • urination problems, such as leaking urine or difficulty emptying your bladder

  • Pain and neuropathy -are common side effects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

  • Sexual health in men and women-Men being treated for cancer may experience changes that affect their sexual life during, and sometimes after, treatment. While you may not have the energy or interest in sexual activity that you did before treatment, being intimate with and feeling close to your spouse or partner is probably still important.

  • Skin and nail changes-Cancer treatments may cause a range of skin and nail changes. Talk with your health care team to learn whether or not you will have these changes, based on the treatment you are receiving.

  • Radiation therapy can cause the skin on the part of your body receiving radiation therapy to become dry and peel, itch (called pruritus), and turn red or darker. It may look sunburned or tan and be swollen or puffy.

  • Chemotherapy may damage fast growing skin and nail cells. This can cause problems such as skin that is dry, itchy, red, and/or that peels. Some people may develop a rash or sun sensitivity, causing you to sunburn easily. Nail changes may include dark, yellow, or cracked nails and/or cuticles that are red and hurt. Chemotherapy in people who have received radiation therapy in the past can cause skin to become red, blister, peel, or hurt on the part of the body that received radiation therapy; this is called radiation recall.

  • Biological therapy may cause itching (pruritus).

  • Targeted therapy may cause a dry skin, a rash, and nail problems.

These skin problems are more serious and need urgent medical attention:

Sudden or severe itching, a rash, or hives during chemotherapy. These may be signs of an allergic reaction.

  • Sores on the part of your body where you are receiving treatment that become painful, wet, and/or infected. This is called a moist reaction and may happen in areas where the skin folds, such as around your ears, breast, or bottom.

  • Sleeping well is important for your physical and mental health. A good night’s sleep not only helps you to think clearly, it also lowers your blood pressure, helps your appetite, and strengthens your immune system.Sleep problems such as being unable to fall asleep and/or stay asleep, also called insomnia, are common among people being treated for cancer. Studies show that as many as half of all patients have sleep-related problems. These problems may be caused by the side effects of treatment, medicine, long hospital stays, or stress.

  • Urinary and Bladder problems-

    Some cancer treatments, such as those listed below, may cause urinary and bladder problems:Radiation therapy to the pelvis (including reproductive organs, the bladder, colon and rectum) can irritate the bladder and urinary tract. These problems often start several weeks after radiation therapy begins and go away several weeks after treatment has been completed.

    • Some types of chemotherapy and immunotherapy can also affect or damage cells in the bladder and kidneys.

    • Surgery to remove the prostate (prostatectomy), bladder cancer surgery, and surgery to remove a woman’s uterus, the tissue on the sides of the uterus, the cervix, and the top part of the vagina (radical hysterectomy) can also cause urinary problems. These types of surgery may also increase the risk of a urinary tract infection.