Side effect: A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some common side effects of cancer treatment are fatigue, pain, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair and mouth sores.

Each person with cancer reacts differently to cancer treatments and its various side effects. Fortunately, doctors now have many ways to reduce and even prevent these side effects. Before treatment starts, the healthcare team will explain possible side effects and suggest ways to help you manage them. This team may include doctors, nurses, a dietitian, radiation therapist and others.

At any stage of cancer, supportive care is available to help relieve the side effects of therapy, to control pain and other symptoms, and to ease emotional and practical problems. For more information about supportive care, contact your doctor, nurse or social worker at (309) 451-8500.
Below you will find some questions you can talk to your doctor or nurse about:

  • What are the possible side effects of the chemotherapy?
  • What are the possible side effects of radiation therapy?
  • When are side effects likely to occur?
  • What side effects are more likely to be related to my type of cancer?
  • Are there any side effects that I should report right away?
  • What can I do to relieve the side effects?

Managing Side Effects

There are ways to help prevent and reduce side effects of cancer treatments. Although every person’s experience with cancer treatment is different, here are some tips that help reduce and lessen side effects:

  • Talk with your doctor or nurse about how you are feeling. There are treatments to manage nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue/anemia, and skin irritations.
  • Drink a lot of water (at least eight (8 ounce) glasses) the day before, the day of, and the day after a treatment to help flush out your system.
  • Eat well, but do not worry if you are unable to eat for a brief period of time. Try to eat bland, small meals as often as you can.
  • Try to exercise, even a little exercise is helpful. Although you might not feel like getting up, moving around will help your body recover more quickly. Try to walk a little, two or three times a day.
  • Wash your hands often, stay away from people who are sick, and stay away from crowded places. This will reduce your chance of getting an infection.
  • Get as much rest as you need. Plan your activities to save energy and forgive yourself if you don’t have the energy to do everything.
  • Try to avoid any activity that can cause cuts, nicks, or bruises. It may take longer for you to heal.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse what type of products you can use if your skin is irritated. Avoid exposing your skin to extreme heat or cold. Avoid direct sunlight.

Be sure to tell your doctor, nurse or radiation therapist about any side effects that you notice. They can help you treat the problems and tell you how to lessen the chances that the side effects will come back. The information discussed here can serve as a guide to handling some side effects, but it cannot take the place of talking with the members of your health care team.
Please visit these helpful websites for more information on coping with cancer side effects: