The methods used to treat endocrine cancer are very powerful.
Fortunately, most side effects are temporary.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the drugs given and the individual response of the patient. Chemotherapy commonly affects rapidly growing cells, such as blood cells that fight infection and cells that line the digestive tract. As a result, patients may have side effects such as lower resistance to infection, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and mouth sores. They may also lose their hair. These side effects usually end after chemotherapy is finished.
During radiation therapy, patients may notice a number of side effects. They may become unusually tired as the treatment continues. Resting as much as possible is important. Skin reactions (redness or dryness) in the area being treated are also common. Patients should be gentle with the treated area of skin. Lotions and creams should not be used without the doctor's advice. When the chest and neck area is treated, patients may have a dry, sore throat and may have some trouble swallowing. Sometimes, they have shortness of breath or a dry cough. Radiation therapy to the abdomen may cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Some patients may have tingling or numbness in their arms, legs and lower back. These side effects gradually disappear when treatment is over.
Loss of appetite can be a problem for patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Researchers are learning that patients who eat well are better able to tolerate the side effects of their treatment. Therefore, good nutrition is important. Eating well means getting enough calories to prevent weight loss and having enough protein in the diet to build and repair skin, hair, muscles and organs. Many patients find that eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day is easier than trying to have three large meals.
The side effects that patients have during cancer therapy vary from person to person and may even be different from one treatment to the next. Doctors try to plan treatment to keep problems to a minimum. Doctors, nurses and dietitians can explain the side effects of cancer treatment and can suggest ways to deal with them.