The Effects Cancer Treatment Has on Your Body
Cancer treatments continue to evolve and improve as there continues to be research and advancements in understanding cancer. There is also a large focus on reducing side effects when it comes to treating cancer since they can greatly impact the patient’s physical and mental well-being.
Cancer patients experience various side effects, ranging in severity, longevity, and the areas of the body impacted. This is why the treatment and management of cancer treatment side effects are an important part of comprehensive cancer care.
The Most Common Side Effects of Cancer Treatment
All types of cancer treatment can lead to various side effects on different areas of the body. As well, these side effects can affect everyone differently. If you’d like to get a better understanding of how cancer treatment affects the body, here’s what the most common side effects are:
- Fatigue – Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is very common for those undergoing cancer treatment. This fatigue is often considered extreme and described as overwhelming tiredness and exhaustion that doesn’t go away after rest.
- Pain – The term “pain” is used to encompass a broad spectrum of cancer treatment side effects that is common as a result of all cancer treatments. Body pain and discomfort can greatly impact the overall quality of life and make regular activities, such as walking, eating, sleeping, and talking, more difficult.
- Anemia – Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and some immunotherapies, can cause a condition called anemia. Anemia develops when there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells in the body, resulting in weakness, dizziness, fainting, and an intense heartbeat.
- Nausea and vomiting – Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy for the abdomen may lead to nausea and vomiting, which can also cause weight loss, dehydration, and malnutrition.
- Hair, skin, and nail problems – Radiation therapy can cause hair loss in the area being treated, while chemotherapy is known to cause hair loss on the head, face, and other regions of the body. Hair loss usually occurs within two weeks of treatment and progresses as treatment continues. Skin-related problems that can occur during cancer treatment include redness, dryness, itchiness, and swelling. Those undergoing cancer treatment should also be careful while outdoors, as they may be more susceptible to sunburn. Cancer treatment patients may also notice changes in their nails, such as yellowing, darkening, and cracking.
- Mouth problems – Anticancer medications and radiation therapy for the head and neck areas can cause complications with the salivary glands and tissues, causing problems with swallowing, changes in taste, mouth infections, mouth sores, dry mouth, tooth decay, and tooth sensitivity.
Other side effects that cancer treatment patients may experience include bleeding and bruising, edema (swelling), bone density loss, heart damage, lymphedema (lymphatic system blockages), memory or concentration difficulties, urinary issues, and more.
As previously mentioned, cancer treatments will affect everyone differently. It is important to always consult with your doctor about any concerns you have about your current or potential risk for side effects.