Side effects of chemotherapy
Occasionally patients will have severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions in the course of treatment. These can include complications in the lungs, heart and kidney. In the short term, these can result from rapid death of cancer cells, and in the long term can be a result of direct effects on these organs by the drugs themselves. Shortness of breath, swelling of the extremities or abdomen, coughing (especially coughing up blood), reduction in urine output or change in color of urine, chest pain and palpitations are serious symptoms that might indicate more severe systemic side effect and need to be reported to your physician immediately.
It’s important to recognize that your physical condition before treatment will have a profound effect on what side effects you experience as well as how serious they are. For example, a patient with diabetes has to worry not only about the general effects of nausea and vomiting, he has to take into account how they will affect the management of his diabetes. A patient with inflammatory bowel disease will be more likely to suffer from severe gastrointestinal side effects. A patient undergoing concurrent radiation therapy (or who has previously had radiation treatment, especially to the head and neck, lungs or abdomen) may find that side effects are both more pronounced and longer lasting that a patient who undergoes chemotherapy alone. Being candid with your physician about your medical history can help your physician anticipate, and sometimes prevent, complications that can make your treatment unpleasant. But remember: side effects, however unpleasant, are usually transient, and with a little preparation and a little ingenuity, you can get through treatment as painlessly as possible.
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