Coping with side-effects of cancer treatment

Tips on managing symptoms and side effects during and after cancer treatment

Cancer and cancer treatments can cause a range of side-effects. They can happen:

  • During treatment
  • A short time after treatment has ended
  • Sometimes after treatment – we have more information about coping with late side-effects

Track and report any side-effects

It’s very important to be aware of any changes and let your medical team know about them, even if they happen some time after treatment. There are treatments to help with most side-effects. 

Even if a symptom is not troubling you too much, it’s still best to let your medical team know how you’re feeling, as it may be a symptom of something else. For example, fatigue may be a sign that your red blood cell count is low or that your treatment is affecting your hormone levels. If this is the case, you can have treatment to help you feel better.

Keeping track of side-effects: Keep a diary or use a mobile phone app to note how you’re feeling. You can ask your consultant or specialist nurse about this.

Types of side-effects

If you want to know more about side-effects and get tips on things you can do to feel better, please choose from the list below:

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Side effect from cancer treatment where the number of red blood cells is lower than it should be.

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Anxiety and depression

Information about coping with anxiety and depression following a cancer diagnosis.

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Bleeding and bruising

Information about bleeding and bruising as a side effect of cancer treatment.

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Blood clots

Advice and information blood clots as a cancer treatment side-effect.

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Bone pain and weakened bones

Information about bone pain caused by cancer treatment and how to cope.

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Breathlessness

Information about feeling like you can’t breathe normally after cancer treatment and how to cope.

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Caring for your stoma

Information about stomas (illeostomy, colostomy, urostomy) and how to care for them.

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Constipation and diarrhoea

Information about coping with constipation (finding it hard to poo) and diarrhoea (frequent watery poos).

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Eating problems and weight loss

Information on coping with eating-related side-effects such as weight loss, sore mouth, dry mouth, taste changes and swallowing difficulties.

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Fatigue

Coping with feeling extremely tired following cancer treatment.

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Fertility and cancer treatment

Information about fertility and cancer treatment.

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Hair loss (alopecia)

Information and tips about losing your hair during cancer treatment.

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High blood calcium (hypercalcaemia)

Information on high blood calcium (hypercalcaemia).

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Increased risk of infection

Information about being more susceptible to infection after your cancer treatment and what to do about it.

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Lymphoedema

Tips on swelling in your arms and legs that can happen during or after cancer treatment.

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Managing menopausal symptoms

Tips on managing menopause symptoms during or after cancer treatment.

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Mouth problems

Information on coping with side-effects that affect your mouth

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Sickness (nausea and vomiting)

Tips on coping with feeling sick (nausea) and getting sick (vomiting)

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Nerve changes (peripheral neuropathy)

Information about coping with nerve damage in your hands and feet after cancer treatment.

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Neutropenia (low white blood counts)

Information about coping with a low white blood cell count which could lead to infection.

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Pain

Information on coping with pain during cancer treatment.

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Sexual side-effects of cancer treatment

Information on how cancer treatment impacts your sex life and how to cope.

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Skin and nail changes

Coping with skin and nail changes from cancer treatment like itchy or flaky skin, brittle nails.

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Sleep problems

Coping with difficulty falling asleep after cancer treatment.

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Urinary problems

Information about urinary issues after cancer treatment.

Other side effects

  • Ascites. Swollen tummy caused by a build-up of fluid.
  • Endocrine (hormone) problems.
  • Kidney changes and fluid retention (swelling – oedema).
  • Cachexia. Severe weight loss.
  • Spinal cord compression

Cancer treatment side-effect resources

Downloadable booklets and leaflets
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Diet and Cancer - A guide for patients and families booklet

This booklet has been written to help you learn more about diet and cancer. It is aimed at people with cancer at any stage. It would also be useful to people who are caring for someone with cancer.
 
pdf
7.97MB

Coping with Fatigue booklet

This booklet has been written to help you find ways to cope with fatigue. It is designed for people with a cancer diagnosis.
pdf
2.05MB

Reducing your Risk of Arm and Leg Lymphoedema factsheet

This factsheet is written to help you learn what lymphoedema is and how you can reduce your risk of getting it. It is aimed at people who have a cancer diagnosis and are at risk of lymphoedema.
pdf
1.76MB

Online Community Support

 13 February 2022

Pain

Hi, I am 46 and was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Last Tuesday I had surgery to remove 2 little tumours and a big cyst. They also took a sample from the lymph nodes. The breast seems to be …

 13 February 2022

Chemo after axillary clearance

I’ve had a lumpectomy and axillary clearance in early January. My focus now is physio as I don’t have full flexibility in my arm. It’s been a slow recovery. I sleep two hours during the day. I’m drea…

 10 February 2022

1st smear following LLETZ

I’ve had my first smear following LLETZ 6 months ago. I’m very worried about all this to be honest. I’m attending the Colposcopy clinic for 8 year with 1 clear smear in that time. The nurse tol…

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