Anemia and Infections
Red blood cells carry oxygen to other cells throughout your body. Chemotherapy can affect the body’s ability to make red blood cells, thereby causing anemia – a condition that can make you feel tired and short of breath. Chemotherapy can also affect your ability to fight infections you would normally be able to fend off.
Appetite Loss and Taste Changes
Treatment for cancer, as well as the cancer itself, can affect your sense of taste or smell. You may find that many foods seem to have less taste. For most people, changes in taste and smell resolve when treatment is finished.
Anxiety and Depression
A diagnosis of cancer can cause depression and anxiety, but you can get help to cope with this aspect of the disease. The most successful treatment for depression involves a combination of antidepressant medication and counseling.
Certain cancer treatments can increase the risk for osteoporosis for both men and women. Some chemotherapy drugs used for breast cancer can cause a loss of bone density. Certain hormone therapies for breast and prostate cancer can, as well.
Chemotherapy can cause constipation. Nutritional management can help prevent or alleviate this side effect.
Diarrhea is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Learn how food choices can help manage this problem.
Fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatment. Some people with cancer have described fatigue as being “tired to the bones” or “hitting a wall.” Others say it is the most distressing side effect they experience.
Mouth Sores and Swallowing Issues
Certain anticancer drugs can cause sores in the mouth. In addition to being painful, mouth sores can become infected. Learn ways to relieve symptoms caused by mouth sores.
Nausea and Vomiting
These side effects occur with chemotherapy and can be mild, moderate, or severe. You may need to take additional medications to control the nausea and vomiting.
Other Side Effects
You may experience other side effects, including lymphedema. This is a buildup of lymph just under the skin, causing swelling in an arm or leg. This is a common complication of cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy drugs can have painful side effects. The goal of pain control is to prevent pain that can be prevented, and to treat pain that cannot be prevented. The first step is to talk with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about your pain.
These are questions to ask your cancer doctor: What sexual impact should I expect from my cancer or its treatment? How long will these changes last? What can I do about them?
Skin Problems and Hair Loss
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause changes in the skin. The exact effects depend on the amount and length of your treatment.
Sleep and Neurological Issues
Cancer and cancer treatment can lead to a lack of sleep. You may have insomnia when you first learn you have cancer. Learn ways to deal with sleep problems.