Cancer treatments have many side effects. Any problem that impacts your healthy tissue and organs due to cancer treatment is a side effect of cancer treatment. Side effects can differ for each person and other medicines and treatments. Two people getting the same treatment may experience different side effects. In the most common scenario, side effects arise during treatment and improve over time.
If you experience any side effects, talk to your oncologist. They may help you manage their external icon in a variety of ways. Treating side effects is integral to cancer care and improving your life quality.
Most common side effects of cancer treatment
The most common side effects and cancer treatment include pain and fatigue, anaemia, mouth problems, nausea, weight loss, dietary issues, loss of appetite, and hair, skin and nail problems.
Pain is a common symptom for all cancers and cancer treatments. It can drastically affect your quality of life and make eating, sleeping, and socializing difficult or impossible. Additionally, if you experience pain, consult your doctor. You must understand that it can be treated. Your oncologist may recommend pain medication and other therapies like acupuncture, massage, and physical therapy to manage pain.
Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a scratching form of fatigue often described by people with cancer as overwhelming tiredness, exhaustion, and weakness. Also, it does not go away with rest and sleep. Fatigue is the most common and distressing symptom of cancer treatment and is especially common due to chemotherapy.
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy and some immunotherapies destroy healthy red blood cells by killing cancer cells and when there are insufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body, it causes anemia. This can cause dizziness, weakness, faintness, and heart racing.
Hair, skin, and nail problems
Radiation therapy can cause hair loss to the part of the body where radiation is done, while chemotherapy can lead to hair loss on the head and other body parts. Different chemotherapy drugs can cause hair loss differently or no hair loss, moreover, hair loss usually starts within two weeks of treatment. The situation worsens over the first or second month of treatment. Regrowth can begin while treatment is still going on or within one to three months after it is completed. Skin-related side effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy include redness, dryness, itchiness, and swelling, you should avoid direct sunlight while receiving cancer treatment as it may lead to sunburn. You may also feel changes in your nails, like yellowing, darkening, or cracking of the nails and cuticles.
Mouth problems are common with almost all cancer treatments. Additionally, anticancer drugs and radiation therapy to the head and neck can destroy salivary glands and tissues in your mouth, throat, and lips and this can create difficulty in swallowing, dry mouth, changes in taste, infections in the mouth, tooth decay, mouth sores, and sensitivity to cold and hot food.
Nausea and vomiting
Immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy cause vomiting and nausea in people undergoing cancer treatment, moreover, nausea and vomiting can lead to dehydration, weight changes, and malnutrition, which can worsen the symptoms of the side effects.
Following are some other side effects of cancer treatment:
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
- Urinary issues
- Bleeding and bruising
- Bone density loss
- Edema (swelling)
- Heart damage
- Lymphedema (lymphatic system blockage)
- Fertility issues
- Memory or concentration problems or delirium
- Nerve problems
- Sexual health problems
How to manage the side effects of your cancer treatment?
If your cancer treatment side effects disrupt your life, consult your oncologist, they may reduce your dose, change the treatment, or halt the treatment altogether. However, if the treatments are working well, your doctor may suggest various treatments to manage your side effects, such as the following:
Options include pain medications, physical activity, and acupuncture.
This condition requires careful monitoring of the blood and can be treated by blood transfusions or certain drugs.
Hair, skin, and nail problems
Many benefit from working with beauty professional volunteers who teach simple techniques on skincare, makeup, and nail care, and give practical tips on hair loss, wigs, and head coverings, when more care is needed, an onco-dermatologist can help prescribe medications to help manage dermatitis (skin irritation), sores, and nail changes to help you continue your cancer treatment.
For mouth problems
Some mouth problems occur because of infection, which can be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medication. Good oral hygiene should also reduce mouth problems as a side effect of cancer treatment. Nutritionists and speech and swallow experts can help patients cope with mouth sores and also help with strategies to make it easier to take in the calories and nutrients your body needs to heal.
For nausea, vomiting, and weight change
We can treat nausea and vomiting with anti-nausea medication taken orally, through an IV, as a suppository, or a patch that sticks to your skin. These medications should help prevent drastic weight changes, and additional dietary issues can be managed with the support of a dietitian.
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