The Side Effects of Cancer Treatment and How to Manage the Fear

Getting a diagnosis of cancer is traumatic. No getting around that. And despite all the assurances your doctor gives you about your possible positive prospects, the fear is real. Also real is the fear of the side effects of cancer treatment. This fear is compounded, of course, by the original diagnosis; you have to think about the cure and what the cure may do to you. Sometimes it might seem like one of those tv commercials advertising a prescription treatment for some rather minor illness but where the side effects can be worse than the illness. Of course, cancer is not a rather minor illness, but the concern over side effects is still valid. What I am here to tell you is that this concern is normal.

Whether you have heard stories from friends or family sharing their cancer experiences, or you have seen movies or read about how difficult cancer treatment can be, it is important to remember that cancer treatment is different for everyone, and many factors come into play. Also, your health care team has many more ways to prevent and relieve side effects than ever before.

Common worries include:

A general, sometime vague uneasiness. This is mostly due to uncertainty.

Physical side effects: hair loss, diminution of sexual interest or ability, pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue…it is a long list of things you might be concerned about prior to and during your cancer treatment. It is important to remember that your health care team now have many more tools to help you manage side effects than they have had in the past. Side effects are inevitable but working with your health care team to mitigate them can help you to have an overall better experience with your treatment.

The overall goal of treatment is to help you, not hurt you. Cancer treatments today are less intense and take less time than in the past. Side effects may only last only a short time in general, going away several weeks or months after you finish treatment. If you know what to expect, you can take away much of the fear that comes with uncertainty.

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