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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?

56 Review