Other Side Effects

Cancer treatment is also related to additional, less common side effects. As with other side effects, not all people receiving the same treatment will experience the same side effects. Whether a side effect occurs depends on many factors, including your age, overall health, type of cancer and drug or radiation dose. It is important to talk to your doctor or nurse about these side effects as soon as you experience them so that treatment can begin early. Early treatment reduces the risk of the side effect becoming serious.

Clinical trials

Oncologists continue to explore ways to decrease the likelihood of cancer treatment-related side effects and to discover new ways to manage them. More effective prevention and treatment strategies will help to enhance the quality of life for you and other people with cancer. If you have side effects of cancer treatment, consider enrolling in a clinical trial. A clinical trial will provide you with the best available care for your side effect, and your participation will help get new treatments into practice more quickly.

Ask your doctor or nurse about clinical trials that may be available for your side effect. You can look for clinical trials yourself by visiting the National Cancer Institute’s searchable database of clinical trials at www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/search. (For type of trial, select “supportive care.”) You can find links on the site to more information about clinical trials.

Summary of other side effects

Side effect What is it? What is it caused by? How is it prevented or managed? Where can I find more information?
Constipation Decrease in the number of bowel movements and/or difficult passage of hard stool, often causing pain, discomfort and sometimes bleeding Chemotherapy, opioids (strong pain drugs)
▪ Prevention is essential: If you
  are at risk for constipation,
  your doctor should tell you to
  take a stool softener
▪ Drink plenty of fluids, eat
  foods high in fiber (such as
  fresh fruits and vegetables
  and whole grains), and
  exercise (walk) as much as
American Cancer Society:
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) Formation of a blood clot in a vein, usually in the leg or lower abdomen; symptoms include pain, swelling and redness of the calf, leg or thigh Surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy; lack of physical activity (confined to bed)
▪ If you are at risk for DVT, your
  doctor may prescribe an
  anticoagulant drug, a drug
  that breaks up clots and thins
  the blood
▪ Your doctor may also tell you
  to wear compression
  stockings or have you use an
  intermittent pneumatic
  compression machine (which
  squeezes the legs at periodic
  intervals), especially after
▪ You should increase activity
  (walking) as much as
American Society of Clinical Oncology: www.cancer.net
What to Know: ASCO’s Guide on Preventing and Treating Blood Clots
Dry mouth (known as xerostomia) Damage to the salivary glands causes them to be ineffective at producing saliva; may be associated with changes in sense of taste or with difficulty chewing and swallowing Radiation therapy or surgery in the head and neck area; some chemotherapy drugs
▪ Your doctor may prescribe a
  drug to stimulate the
  production of saliva (such as
  pilocarpine) or an artificial
  saliva substitute (available as
  a spray, gel or tablet)
▪ Keep your mouth moist by
  sucking on ice cubes or
  taking frequent small sips of
  liquids; use gravy, sauce or
  broth to make food easier to
  swallow; chew sugar-free
  gum or suck on sugar-free
  hard candies
CancerCare: www.cancercare.org
Advances in the Treatment of Dry Mouth
Flu-like syndrome Fever, chills, muscle aches and fatigue (may be accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea) Chemotherapy
▪ Your doctor may tell you to
  take acetaminophen or an
  anti-inflammatory drug before
  treatment if it is likely to cause
  flu-like syndrome
▪ Treatment is targeted at the
  symptoms: acetaminophen
  (Tylenol) for fever,
  anti-inflammatory drugs
  (ibuprofen, naproxen) for
  muscle aches, antiemetics for
  nausea and vomiting
▪ Drink plenty of fluids, take
  cool baths, rest
The Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative: http://chemocare.com
Flu-like Syndrome

Additional Resources