What Are the Side Effects of Cancer Treatments?

There are lots of possible cancer treatments. However, patients often wonder about what side effects they have. Find out more in this article.
What Are the Side Effects of Cancer Treatments?

Last update: 06 July, 2020

Many patients often have questions about the side effects of different cancer treatments. When looking for professional help for their treatment, some people turn to the internet for answers. After exploring the available information, they have even more questions. For example, they wonder what the side effects are of cancer treatments.

However, to answer this question, we first need to mention that cancer is a term to refer to a group of diseases. Although all can meet common characteristics, most have their own origin, and they spread in different ways. Therefore, these differences mean that certain treatments are better for different types of cancer.

There are varieties of cancer treatments, but in this article, we’ll mention the following:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

In this article, we’ll take a brief look at all three.

Cancer treatments: Side effects of cancer surgery

A person in surgery.

Although most of the side effects from surgery are associated with the organ that’s being operated on, and how the surgery was done, we can point out some side effects associated with all types of surgery.


It’s common to feel pain in the part of the body where you had surgery. However, the intensity of the pain will depend on the extent of the surgery, the body part, and the person’s sensitivity to painful stimuli. Also, you can control pain with prescription pain relievers from your doctor.

Wound infection

Surgery involves cutting into the skin. These wounds can serve as a gateway for microorganisms that are harmful to our health. Usually, infections happen within the first few days after surgery.

During an infection, you could experience inflammation, pain, and redness around the wound. Also, you might have a fever or pus. It’s important to tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Cancer treatments: Side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is associated with an extensive list of side effects. Here, we’ll talk about some of the most common ones.


The vast majority of chemotherapeutic agents negatively affect the bone marrow. Then, this causes changes in the cell production of the patient, potentially leading to anemia.

Nausea and vomiting

In fact, this is the most common side effect of chemotherapy, affecting 80% of people who get this treatment.

Changes in bowel movements

Chemotherapy causes changes in your body. Some of these changes can take place in your intestines. Also, depending on the drugs, it can cause diarrhea or constipation.

Hair loss

Contrary to popular belief, hair loss during chemotherapy will depend on the drug used. This side effect is very different from person to person.

Cancer treatments: side effects of radiation therapy

A person getting radiation therapy.

Radiotherapy has side effects in relation to the volume of radiation received. Therefore, side effects happen in irradiation fields. Also, they are related to the dose received, concomitant treatments, and the susceptibility of the person receiving it.

As we already mentioned, side effects also depend on where the patient is getting the radiation. Fatigue is present in almost all cases, as well as skin irritation where the radiation hits. If you get radiation on your abdomen, you might experience changes in the intestines, as well as nausea and vomiting.

Final thoughts on the side effects of cancer treatments

Side effects vary depending on the treatment and the person receiving it. Also, there are lots of different cancer treatments out there. However, the most common ones are still surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Depending on the location, intensity, and type of cancer, the side effects will be different. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about any symptoms you’re experiencing.

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