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Managing Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Cancer and cancer treatment often cause a variety of side effects. Keep a careful record of the symptoms and side effects you experience and talk with your physician about which side effects are likely based on your specific treatment plan. An important part of cancer care is relieving side effects, called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. It is important to talk with your healthcare team about the specific side effects you experience and the best ways to manage and treat them.

What Are Side Effects?

Increased risk for infection (low white blood cells). Fever is one of the first signs of infection. Starting one to three days after chemotherapy, take your temperature two to three times per day. Report any fever 100.5°F or higher.

What Causes Side Effects?

Cancer cells grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells. Many anti-cancer drugs are made to kill fast-growing cells. Certain healthy cells also multiply quickly and chemotherapy can affect these as well. These normal, fast-growing cells include blood, digestive tract, reproductive system, and hair follicles, thus causing side effects.

Will I Get Side Effects From Chemotherapy?

You may experience many side effects or none at all. Each individual’s response to treatment is unique. Specific medications can cause certain side effects, which should be reviewed with you by your care team as your treatment begins. Medication is available to help decrease side effects. If you are experiencing problems, please let us know.

How Long do Side Effects Last?

Generally, normal cells recover when chemotherapy is over. This is a gradual process as healthy cells have a chance to grow normally. However, some side effects may never completely subside, depending upon how your body responds to the chemotherapy.