Managing Side Effects

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Talk with your healthcare team about possible side effects. Be prepared and know what to look for and how to manage problems with your healthcare team. Below are the most common side effects experienced by colorectal cancer patients and practical tips for handling them. Not everyone experiences the same side effects, nor do they experience them in the same way.
To keep track of your side effects, download our Side Effects Management Chart and the Medication Management Chart.

For more info: get your free copy of Your Guide in the Fight. 

Fatigue

Fatigue is the most common side effect experienced by people who undergo cancer treatment. The good news is that fatigue eventually ends after treatment ends. Still, if you feel extremely tired, weary, exhausted or worn out – there are things you can do to regain energy. Tell your doctor about your fatigue. It’s important to have…  Read More

Increased Risk of Infection / Fever

Chemotherapy can decrease your white blood cell count, which puts you at risk for getting an infection – a serious side effect. Serious infections can land you in the hospital, and may even be life-threatening. A fever is sign of infection. Take your temperature anytime you feel warm regularly and contact your healthcare team if your…  Read More

Diarrhea

You know you have diarrhea when you have frequent bowel movements that are soft, loose or watery. Diarrhea can result from chemotherapy treatments, colon surgery and radiation treatment, or because of your diet. If you are experiencing diarrhea, tell your doctor. Medications can be prescribed and other strategies can help. Before beginning chemotherapy, get a sense of…  Read More

Neuropathy & Nerve Changes

Neuropathy is common among those receiving chemotherapy. You might feel a numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, a loss of sensation, shooting pain, a loss of balance, aching muscles, problems with finger dexterity and forgetfulness. A unique symptom that many colorectal cancer patients experience with neuropathy is an extreme sensitivity to cold. The good news…  Read More

High Blood Pressure

If you’re taking bevacizumab, aflibercept and regorafenib, you may experience high blood pressure, which is routinely treated with appropriate medication. Treatment may be paused or halted if blood pressure increases too much. Talk with your doctor about your blood pressure and make sure its monitored over the course of your treatment. Content medically-reviewed by members of…  Read More

Mouth Sores (mucositis)

Mouth Sores (mucositis) are a common side effect of 5-FU chemotherapy treatment. They are painful and can make eating or swallowing difficult or impossible. Cooling the tissues of the mouth and throat with ice chips before and during administration of chemo helps to prevent mouth sores. Popsicles can help too. However, avoid ice if your treatment…  Read More

Hand-foot syndrome

Hand-foot syndrome refers to red, cracked, or peeling skin that develops in some patients taking 5-FU, capecitabine or regorafenib. This condition is not life-threatening and it gets better once you stop taking the drugs. If you experience early signs of hand-foot syndrome, you can reduce the dose of your treatment to stay on schedule. A few…  Read More

Rashes

Targeted therapies tend to cause itchy, painful rashes that look similar to acne. Skin toxicities are a common side effect among colorectal cancer patients. Chemotherapy-caused rashes Rash related to cetuximab and/or panitumumab (EGFR inhibitors) Treatment with cetuximab or panitumumab can cause an acne-like rash. The rash, which commonly occurs on the face and chest, can be…  Read More

Wound Healing

The chemotherapy drugs bevacizumab, aflibercept and regorafenib can slow down the healing of wounds. If you’re taking these treatments, they will be stopped at least two weeks before surgery. Talk with your doctor about what to expect and how treatments may impact your body’s healing. Content medically-reviewed by members of the Fight Colorectal Cancer Medical Advisory Board,…  Read More

Fecal Incontinence & Adhesions

Fecal incontinence and adhesions impact many who receive treatment for rectal cancer. Unfortunately, even though radiation treatments are carefully planned to target the tumor and surrounding rectum, it is almost impossible to avoid damaging healthy tissue. Fecal incontinencee – the inability to control your bowel movements Adhesions (scar tissue) – in the colon, can cause partial or…  Read More

Chemo Brain

It is estimated that one in five people who take chemotherapy for cancer experience what’s called “chemo-brain.” This is a hazy experience where symptoms such as forgetfulness, difficulty finding the right words and difficulty multi-tasking or concentrating have been described as a side effect. Some people regain mental clarity over time, others remain a bit less…  Read More

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

If you are interested in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments, you’re not alone. Many patients look for approaches to “add to” or “complement” treatment for colorectal cancer, especially when looking for ways to feel better. There are both beneficial and harmful CAM methods. Before you begin any of these alternative treatments, you need to understand…  Read More