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.
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
What is it?
What is it caused by?
How is it prevented or managed?
Where can I find more information?
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
▪ Your doctor may also tell you
to wear compression
stockings or have you use an
compression machine (which
squeezes the legs at periodic
intervals), especially after
▪ You should increase activity
(walking) as much as
American Society of Clinical Oncology (patient website): 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
Advances in the Treatment of Dry Mouth
Fever, chills, muscle aches and fatigue (may be accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea)
▪ Your doctor may tell you to
take acetaminophen or an
anti-inflammatory drug before
treatment if it is likely to cause
▪ Treatment is targeted at the
(Tylenol) for fever,
(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
Coping with Chemotherapy: Compassionate Advice and Authoritative Information from a Chemotherapy Survivor. Nancy Brunin. New York, NY: Avery (Penguin Group), 2002.
Living Well with Cancer - A Nurse Tells You Everything You Need to Know about Managing the Side Effects of Your Treatment. Katen Moore, Libby Schmais. New York, NY: Perigree (Penguin Putnam), 2002.
Managing the Side Effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy. Marilyn J Dodd. San Francisco: University of California, San Francisco Nursing Press, 2001.
The Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy Survival Guide (Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy Survivor’s Guide). Judith McKay, Nancy Hirano. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1998.