NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer, Version 1.2017
Side effects can happen.
Part 6 talks about things you can do to
cope with common side effects or prevent
them from happening. As always, talk to
your doctor or nurse if you need to know
more about side effects.
Side effects are a fact of life when you’re being
treated for cancer. With some treatments, side effects
are mild and don’t interfere much with day-to-day life.
With others, side effects can make it hard to do much
of anything—at least in the days right after treatment.
Fortunately, a better understanding of just why side
effects happen has made it easier to prevent side
effects and to treat such problems when they come
up. Also, newer drugs and improved technology are
making it easier to target cancer cells with less harm
to healthy tissues. These new treatments can help
prevent side effects from even happening.
Why do side effects happen?
Most side effects happen because healthy cells get
damaged in the battle to rid your body of cancer.
Radiation that kills cancer cells will also damage
nearby normal cells. Chemotherapy drugs that attack
fast-dividing cancer cells can also damage normal
cells that divide rapidly.
Most side effects tend to be worst in the days right
after treatment is given and get better once treatment
is complete. But some damage does not heal when
treatment is over, leading to long-term problems such
as early menopause and infertility. There is a risk of
later health problems, even some forms of leukemia.
Since you may be living for many, many years after
treatment is over, your doctor will carefully think about
the risk of long-term side effects from treatment.
The side effects you’re likely to face will depend on
your treatment plan. Some chemotherapies tend to
cause more side effects than drugs designed to zero
in on cancer cells, such as targeted therapy drugs
and immunotherapy drugs. Higher doses may also
cause more severe side effects.
Coping with side effects
48 Why do side effects happen?
49 How do I prevent or take care of my side
52 How do I cope with side effects?