Some people experience unpleasant side effects as a result of receiving certain cancer treatments. The effects vary from person-to-person, so you may experience a few side effects or none at all.
You and your family can better cope with chemotherapy and radiation therapy if you know what to expect and how to manage such side effects if they should occur.
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The information provided within this Web site is not intended as medical advice. It should never be substituted for a consultation with a healthcare professional. Please contact your physician with questions and concerns about your health condition.
To learn more about the side effects of cancer therapies and how to cope with them, visit the following Web sites. Please note that the information available through these links is not provided by Texas Oncology, and Texas Oncology does not necessarily endorse this information. All information provided through these links is for your reference only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician before acting or relying upon such information.
Chemotherapy Side Effects
Some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea and vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, infections, and increased chances of bruising and bleeding.
Chemotherapy Education Online Video
Before your chemotherapy treatments, talk with your Texas Oncology medical team about the possible side effects, and get their recommendations for management and treatment of these side effects.
The following link gives you information regarding the treatment of chemotherapy side effects. The content provided through this link is not the information of Texas Oncology and Texas Oncology does not necessarily endorse such content. All content provided through this link is for information only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician before acting or relying upon such information.
American Cancer Society, Chemotherapy Effects
Nausea: Some chemotherapy drugs can cause a queasy, upset stomach. Severe nausea can cause vomiting. You should tell your oncology doctor or nurse if you experience nausea symptoms, as they can prescribe medications that will help reduce nausea.
For detailed tips on how to deal with nausea and vomiting, visit:
Mouth Sores: Tell your oncology team immediately if you develop mouth sores during chemotherapy treatments.
For safe, easy treatment of mouth sores, avoid citrus fruits and juices, and replace spicy, rough or crunchy foods with foods that are soft and easy to swallow. A baking soda mouthwash can be used as often as desired.
Hair Loss: Some chemotherapy drugs affect hair cells, and this can mean partial or complete hair loss. In almost all cases, your hair will grow back after your chemotherapy treatments are over—this can take two to five months.
Here are some techniques to help you cope with hair loss:
- Use mild shampoos.
- Use soft hairbrushes.
- Use low heat if you must use a dryer.
- Don't use brush rollers to set your hair.
- Don't dye your hair or get a permanent.
- Have your hair cut short.
- A shorter style will make your hair look thicker and fuller, and it will be easier to manage if hair loss occurs.
- Use a sunscreen, sun block, hat, scarf, or wig to protect your scalp from the sun.
- Use a satin pillowcase.
You may want to consider wearing a wig or a hairpiece, or perhaps a scarf, cap, or turban. Please ask your Texas Oncology physician or nurse about programs in your area to help you look and feel your best.
Skin Irritation: With chemotherapy treatments, you may develop rashes, itchy, dry or flaky skin, or changes in the color of your skin or nails. These are all temporary side effects that will most likely disappear after treatment.
Here are tips to help you with skin irritations. If symptoms persist, quickly notify your oncology physician or nurse.
- If you develop acne, keep your face clean and dry.
- For itching skin, apply cornstarch.
- To help avoid dryness, take quick, warm showers rather than long, hot baths.
- Apply creams and lotions while your skin is still moist.
- Avoid perfumes, colognes, or after-shave lotions. These products often contain alcohol, which can make your skin dry.
Kidney or Bladder Problems: Some chemotherapy drugs will irritate your bladder or cause permanent kidney damage. You may notice a change in the color of your urine (orange, red, or yellow), or your urine may develop a strong or medicine-like odor.
You should ask your Texas Oncology medical team if your chemotherapy treatments will cause any of these problems, and tell them of any symptoms you may experience.
Be sure to watch for these signs:
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Frequent urination
- A feeling that you must urinate right away
- Reddish or bloody urine
To avoid or treat kidney or bladder problems, you can safely drink plenty of fluids, especially water. This will ensure good urine flow and help prevent problems. Besides water, fluids that are useful include juice, coffee, tea, soup, soft drinks, broth, ice cream, popsicles, and gelatin. Of course, be careful of excessive sugar and caffeine when making your choices.
Sexuality or Fertility Problems: Chemotherapy can affect sexual organs and performance, but this does not occur with all people or with all chemotherapy drugs. Your possible side effects will depend on the drugs used for your treatments, your age, and your general health.
The following links take you to information regarding men's and women's sexuality and fertility during chemotherapy treatments. The content provided through these links is not the information of Texas Oncology and Texas Oncology does not necessarily endorse such content. All content provided through these links is for information only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician before acting or relying upon such information.
Radiation Therapy Side Effects
With radiation therapy, you may experience fatigue, skin changes, and some loss of appetite. There is also a possibility of some body parts being adversely affected by radiation treatments, but today's advanced technologies have greatly reduced this risk.
Before your radiation treatments, talk with your Texas Oncology medical team about the possible side effects, and get their recommendations for management and treatment of these side effects.
To learn more about the side effects of radiation therapy and how to cope with them, visit:
Fatigue: During radiation therapy, you may become weak or fatigued because your body uses more energy to handle the demands of cancer and radiation treatments. This may begin a few weeks after radiation therapy begins, and it may increase as your treatments progress. After your treatments are finished, your weakness and fatigue should gradually go away.
To fight weakness and fatigue associated with radiation treatments, you should try to get more sleep at night and rest during the day. Ask family members or friends to help you with daily chores such as shopping, cooking, child care, housework and driving. Neighbors can sometimes pick up groceries for you when they do their own shopping.
Skin Irritations: While undergoing radiation treatments, your skin may become red, dry or irritated, taking on the appearance of a tan or sunburn. This usually occurs in and around the treatment area of your body.
You should immediately notify your Texas Oncology medical team of any noticeable skin changes. This team can suggest measures to relieve your discomfort and possibly minimize further irritation.
During radiation treatments, you need to be gentle with your skin. Here are some suggestions of safe practices that may help:
- Use only lukewarm water and mild soap.
- Do not rub, scrub or scratch your affected areas, even while bathing.
- Do not wear tight clothing over the treatment area.
- Avoid using heating pads or ice packs on your affected skin, unless advised by your doctor.
- Do not use powders, creams, perfumes, deodorants, body oils, ointments, lotions, or home remedies on your affected skin while you are being treated and for several weeks afterward, unless approved by your oncology doctor or nurse.
- Avoid exposing your affected skin areas to the sun during treatments, and for at least 1 year after your treatments are completed.
Loss of Appetite: During radiation treatments, you may experience digestive problems, or complete loss of interest in food. Even if you are not hungry, it is important to keep your protein and calorie intake as high as possible.
If you develop eating problems, quickly talk with your Texas Oncology physician, nurse or nutritionist. This team can provide you with tips, guides and recipe ideas to help you overcome your problems.
To learn more about the effects of radiation therapy on your eating habits, click on the link below. The content provided through this link is not the information of Texas Oncology and Texas Oncology does not necessarily endorse such content. All content provided through this link is for information only and does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician before acting or relying upon such information.