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Managing Side Effects

Work closely with your doctor and cancer care team to prepare yourself with information about what to expect and how to cope with side effects.  For some patients, side effects may last well after treatment is completed or may be permanent. For most patients, side effects are temporary and go away when the body adjusts to therapy or once treatment ends. On the other hand, some patients suffer symptoms that may require hospitalization until they subside.

Reactions to treatment vary from patient to patient. Reactions also vary depending on:

  • The treatment and/or types of drugs used
  • Drug or radiation dose amounts
  • The therapy's length
  • Whether you have other health conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease

Unfortunately, drugs that damage or destroy cancer cells also affect normal cells and may cause certain side effects. However, side effects are not always drug-specific and may be related to something other than the medication. While unexpected side effects can occur, most can be predicted because certain drugs are more likely than others to affect specific types of body tissues, such as those that make up the nervous system, kidneys, bladder, heart and lungs.

Cancer treatment is most harsh on rapidly dividing cells, such as:

  • Hair follicle cells
  • Cells that line the gastrointestinal (digestive) tract
  • Stem cells that produce blood and immune cells

 For information on side effect management, click here to access our Fast Facts series:

  • Side Effect Management: Caring for Skin, Nails, Hair and Mouth
  • Side Effect Management: Effects of Childhood Cancer Treatment on Learning 
  • Side-Effect Management: Managing Diarrhea and Constipation 
  • Side-Effect Management: Managing Low Appetite and Weight Loss
  • Side-Effect Management: Managing Low Blood Cell Counts
  • Side-Effect Management: Managing Mouth and Throat Side Effects 
  • Side-Effect Management: Managing Nausea and Vomiting 
  • Side-Effect Management: Managing Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
  • Side-Effect Management: Memory and Concentration Problems in Adults 
  • Side-Effect Management: Reducing Your Risk Of Infection

More topics are continuously being added to this series, so check back often.

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