Welcome to ecancermedicalscience treatment side effects section. Written by nurses of the European Institute of Oncology, this guide provides Doctors with a useful resource for speeding up diagnosis to discovery of cancer cells.

 

Treatment related side effects (Chemotherapy)

Side Effect Description
Allergic Reactions Some chemotherapy drugs can cause allergic reactions. This is not limited to injections but can be a reaction to tablets as well. Signs can include itching, facial flushing, fever, feeling cold and shivering, and occasionally difficulty in breathing or swallowing.
Bladder irritation (cystitis) Some chemotherapy drugs can cause irritation to the lining of the bladder (including cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide etc.) this can result in a burning sensation when passing urine and sometimes traces of blood in urine.
Fevers and chills Particular chemotherapy drugs can cause fever or chills some time after the drugs have been administered (including bleomycin).
Fluid retention Some chemotherapy drugs can cause retention of fluid.
Hearing function Particular types of chemotherapy treatment can affect your hearing. This is a rare occurrence, and is linked with high doses of carboplatin and cisplatins. It can result in a ‘ringing’ in the ears, which diminishes after treatment is finished.
Heart function Particular types of chemotherapy treatment can affect the way your heart muscle works.
Skin changes Treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause changes to the skin. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause the skin to produce more pigment and become slightly darker. Some drugs can cause rashes and this should be reported to the doctor straightaway. The skin can be more sensitive to light during and after chemotherapy, and it is advisable to use a sun protection cream or appropriate coverage. Radiotherapy can cause local skin irritation, requiring particular skin care or creams.
Kidney function Particular types of chemotherapy treatment can affect the way your kidneys function.
Liver function Particular types of chemotherapy treatment can affect the way your liver works. Where this is possible, the doctor will assess the function of your liver before starting treatment. Blood tests will be performed regularly to check how your liver is functioning.
Lung function Particular types of chemotherapy treatment can affect the lung tissue (e.g. bleomycin, carmustine). Where this is possible, the doctor will assess the function of your lungs before starting treatment and during or after if this is indicated. You should inform your nurse or doctor if you develop a cough or any difficulties in breathing.
Secondary cancers Some chemotherapy drugs can increase the risk of developing other cancers or leukaemia in the future.
Seizures Some chemotherapy drugs can cause a ‘seizure’ or ‘fitting’ (e.g. chlorambucil). This is uncommon, but may be more likely if you have a history of seizures.
Sore hands / feet Some chemotherapy drugs can cause soreness or redness on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet – this is also known as ‘Palmar/Plantar syndrome’. Speak with your doctor or nurse about whether the chemotherapy drugs you will receive may produce this side effect.
Sore eyes Some chemotherapy drugs can cause the eyes to become sore, irritated or itchy (e.g. cytarabine).
Urine discolouration Some chemotherapy drugs (including – doxorubicin, daunorubicin, mitoxantrone, amsacrine) can cause discolouration of the urine for 24-48 hours after administration.
Watery eyes Some chemotherapy drugs can cause the eyes to become more watery (e.g. capcitebine) and sometimes become inflamed.

Biological therapies

Treatment Potential Side effects
Thalidomide (angiogenesis inhibitor) Potential side effects that can be experienced include risk of blood clots (thrombosis), reduced bone marrow functioning, and potential for anemia, bruising, bleeding. Some people experience sleepiness or tiredness and as a result prefer to take this medication in the evening. Other potential side effects include loss of appetite, pins and needles sensation in fingers or feet, constipation or rashes. Birth defects are an important side effect of Thalidomide and you must not become pregnant or farther a child whilst taking this medication.
Bortezomib (Cancer Growth Inhibitor) Potential side effects include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, dehydration, fever, reduced appetite, effects on bone marrow function and potential for infection, bruising or bleeding. Other potential side effects include altered sensation in fingers or feet.
Imatinib (Cancer Growth Inhibitor) Potential side effects include nausea, diarrhea, effects on bone marrow function and potential for infection, bruising or bleeding. Other potential side effects include skin rash, headaches and fluid retention.
Sorafenib (Cancer Growth Inhibitor) Potential side effects include redness or soreness of hands or feet, this may include altered sensation. Other potential side effects include nausea, diarrhea or constipation, reduced appetite, sore mouth potential for bruising or bleeding, skin rash, hair thinning, voice changes and rarely heart problems.
Cancer vaccines These are currently being tested in clinical trials looking at cancers including prostate, breast, melanoma, colon, lung and cervix etc. potential side effects tend to be located to the injection site with rash or skin reaction, and occasionally flu-like symptoms.
Interferon Potential side effects include nausea or vomiting, flu-like symptoms, general tiredness, and sometimes reaction at the injection site. Other potential side effects include dizziness, low mood, pins and needles sensation in hands or feet and possible effects on fertility.
Interleukin Potential side effects include nausea or vomiting, flu-like symptoms, general tiredness, and sometimes reaction at the injection site. Other potential side effects include dizziness, low mood, puns and needles sensation in hands or feet and possible effects on fertility.
90Y Ibritumomab tiuxetan (monoclonal antibody) During the administration of this therapy, some patients experience signs of an allergic reaction including shortness of breath, facial flushing, headaches, or nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects, inform the nurse or doctor immediately. After administration, potential side effects include effects on bone marrow function and potential for infection, bruising or bleeding. Other potential side effects include flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
Alemtuzumab (monoclonal antibody) During the administration of this therapy, some patients experience signs of an allergic reaction including shortness of breath, facial flushing, headaches, or nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects, inform the nurse or doctor immediately. Low blood pressure can also be experienced. After administration, potential side effects include effects on bone marrow function and potential for infection, bruising or bleeding. Other potential side effects include diarrhea or constipation, rashes, feeling short of breath or development of a cough.
Gemtuzumab (monoclonal antibody) During the administration of this therapy, some patients experience signs of an allergic reaction including shortness of breath, facial flushing, headaches, or nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects, inform the nurse or doctor immediately. Flu-like symptoms and alterations in blood pressure can also be experienced during administration of the drug. After administration, potential side effects include effects on bone marrow function and potential for infection, bruising or bleeding. Other potential side effects include taste changes, sore mouth and changes in liver function.
Rituximab (monoclonal antibody) During the administration of this therapy, some patients experience signs of an allergic reaction including shortness of breath, facial flushing, headaches, or nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects, inform the nurse or doctor immediately. Flu-like symptoms and low blood pressure can also be experienced during administration of the drug. After administration, potential side effects include effects on bone marrow function and potential for infection, bruising or bleeding.
Trastuzumab (monoclonal antibody) During the administration of this therapy, some patients experience signs of an allergic reaction including shortness of breath, facial flushing, headaches, or nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects, inform the nurse or doctor immediately. Other potential side effects of this treatment include flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, effects on the heart and sometimes headaches.