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: Managing Low Blood Cell Counts
- Side-Effect Management: Reducing Your Risk Of Infection
More topics are continuously being added to this series, so check back often.
- Long-Term and Late Effects For Cancer Survivors
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s free fact sheets:
- Long-Term and Late Effects of Treatment for Adults
- Long-Term and Late Effects of Treatment for Children