Drug therapy can include:
- Targeted (biologic) therapy
- Investigative treatments through clinical trials
Drug therapies can cause side effects, which vary depending on the treatment type, dosage, and length. Many side effects go away when treatment is finished. Some side effects can continue after treatment is finished. Your treatment team will monitor for this at regular intervals.
Tell us if you experience problems that may be side effects of treatment. We can help you manage any side effects by prescribing medications or recommending things you can do. Below are some common side effects of drug (systemic) therapy and our recommendations for managing them.
Common side effects of chemotherapy:
- Body ache
- Muscle ache
- Lack of appetite**
- Mouth sores
- Taste changes
- Decreased blood counts (anemia/depressed immune system/risk of bleeding)
- Hair loss
- Changes in finger nails or toe nails
- Dry, peeling, or weepy skin
- Allergic symptoms (itching/hives/swelling are the most common)
- Cardiac effects
- Decreased fertility
- Numbness/Tingling in the hands and feet **
** Discuss with your care team if you have these symptoms.
Not all side effects are experienced by every patient. Every chemotherapy drug has a different set of side effects. Depending on your treatment plan, we will let you know which side effects to be concerned about most.
Managing common symptoms:
These reactions are more common with certain chemotherapy medications than others. They usually occur during the infusion. Symptoms include itching, flushing, hives, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and low blood pressure. The symptoms usually resolve with Benadryl and sometimes from steroid medication. Expert nurses are available and knowledgeable in managing these reactions if they occur. In rare cases, the reactions are severe. However, if you experience a delayed reaction after you leave Stanford, call 911.
If you have a mild reaction, we may ask you to take allergy medication before chemotherapy and possibly a low dose steroid called Decadron.
Published April 2018
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