Cancer Side Effects

Cancer is a problematic illness with various symptoms, but these symptoms are quite different from the common side effects of cancer which come about as the result of various forms of treatment including cancer drugs and chemotherapy along with other causes. Detailed below are a few common side effects of various forms of cancer.

Cancer Side Effects

  1. Anemia: A Common Cancer Side Effect

    Anemia is a common side effect of cancer treatment and chemotherapy in particular. Anemia is characterized by an abnormally low level of red blood cells and results in extreme tiredness and fatigue. Anemia caused by exposure to radiation and chemotherapy is commonplace and is often treated alongside treatment for cancer.

  2. Cognitive Problems

    Impairment of cognitive functions is defined by the lack of reasoning, decline in memory power, disorientation and a decline in comprehensive abilities. Unfortunately; up to 75% of people suffering from cancer experience cognitive problems as a cancer side effect during the course of cancer treatment and about 35% continue to combat cognitive impairment for up to 6 months after successful completion of cancer treatment.

  3. Hair Loss: Another Depressing Cancer Side Effect

    Hair loss caused by exposure to radiation or chemotherapy is a common side effect in cancer patients. This is the most noticeable and well-known side effect of cancer.

  4. Gastrointestinal Obstruction

    A gastrointestinal obstruction is characterized by the blockage of the GI or gastrointestinal tract. This is often detrimental for the natural processing of foods as foods and fluids do not move through the GI tract as they normally would. Gastrointestinal obstruction is a common cancer side effect for those suffering from colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer.

  5. Constipation

    Constipation is a common yet largely manageable side effect of various forms of cancer. Constipation may cause bloating and slight discomfort, but is easily treated alongside treatment for cancer.

  6. Dental and Oral Health Issues Developing as Cancer Side Effect

    A pronounced change in dental and oral health may often be a side effect of cancer and cancer treatments. This cancer side effect is most often proactively treated to provide the patient relief from the discomfort of being unable to swallow foods and talk due to pain or dry mouth occurring as a side effect of cancer and cancer treatment.

  7. Fatigue

    Fatigue that ranges from mild to debilitating is one of the most pronounced side effects of cancer and cancer treatment. While fatigue in most cases disappears once cancer treatment is successfully completed; many continue to experience this side effect long after completion of cancer treatment.

  8. Ascites

    Ascites is characterized by the collection of fluid around the organs surrounding the abdomen and Ascites is an unfortunate side effect of cancer. People suffering from breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and uterine cancer are more likely to be afflicted by Ascites as a cancer side effect.

  9. Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia

    Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia; which is characterized by redness, swelling and pain on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet is a well-documented side effect of specific cancer treatments. The symptoms of Palmar-Plantar Eythrodysesthesia in cancer patients are generally treated with palliative care alongside treatment for cancer itself.

  10. Hearing Loss Experienced as a Cancer Side Effect

    Certain cancers and their corresponding treatments may cause hearing loss in patients. This hearing loss generally ranges from mild to severe and is often accompanied by tinnitus, which is a ringing sound in the ears. Most often; this cancer side effect goes away with completion of cancer treatment, but hearing loss for cancer patients can also be permanent in some cases.

  11. Hormonal Changes Due to Prostate Cancer Treatment

    A decrease in testosterone and various other male hormones collectively known as androgens is common in men receiving treatment in the form of hormone therapy for prostate cancer.

  12. Weakened Immune System & Infection Occurring as Cancer Side Effect

    Individuals suffering from various forms of cancer are susceptible to a weakened immune system, which is the inability to fight various infections. Palliative care often treats infections alongside primary cancer treatment and therapy.

  13. Menopausal Symptoms

    Specific cancer treatments can bring on the early onset of menopausal symptoms and menopause. Removal of ovaries, chemotherapy, anti-estrogen treatments and radiation therapy to the pelvic regions can bring about menopause and menopausal symptoms in women who are being treated for various cancers.

  14. Mucositis

    Mucositis or mouth sores are common cancer side effects seen in cancer patients and are often caused by cancer treatments. Palliative care is often required to deal with this common side effect of cancer.

  15. Nervous System Impairment

    Impairment of the nervous system and its symptoms are known side effects of cancer treatment that may crop up during the course of cancer treatment or soon after. Palliative care is of paramount importance to help cancer patients experiencing nervous system impairment as a side effect of cancer.

  16. Sleeping Problems

    Hypersomnia, nightmares, somnolence syndrome and insomnia are documented side effects of cancer treatment that often affect the quality of sleep and rest for cancer patients.

  17. Osteoporosis

    Osteoporosis or bone loss is a common side effect for patients suffering with breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and multiple myeloma. Certain kinds of chemotherapy, gender; specifically womanhood and hormone therapy are contributing factors for this cancer side effect.

  18. Dermatological Conditions Developing as a Result of Cancer

    Dermatological conditions are quite widespread in people suffering from cancer. Chemotherapy and cancer drugs can aggravate these skin side effects; however, these cancer side effects mostly disappear with successful completion of cancer treatment.

  19. Weight Gain: An Annoying Cancer Side Effect

    Chemotherapy can cause weight gain in cancer patients by leading to retention of fluids, decreasing physical activity with an increase in fatigue and causing nausea, which is often relieved by eating. Chemotherapy is also known to trigger cravings for different foods in different individuals.

  20. Weight Loss

    Weight loss is also equally if not more likely in cancer patients. Chemotherapy can have the opposite effect and decrease the appetite of many cancer patients. Cancer drugs can also have similar side effects.


It is important to note that cancer side effects are not limited to the ones listed above. Various other side effects of cancer and cancer treatments are well documented. Some of them that haven’t been documented above are; thrombocytopenia, urinary incontinence, taste changes, dyspnea, neutropenia, pain and delirium among others.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 21, 2021

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