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Silent Symptoms of Cancer Treatment

Cancer fighters face many battles in their war against cancer. Everyone fighting cancer soon realizes that they are not just dealing with the disease itself.  Unfortunately, the chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation treatments that kill the cancer tumors and cells also affect healthy tissues or organs. This causes unpleasant side effects and additional stress on top of the cancer.  

Below is a list of common side effects that cancer fighters should be aware of:

  •  Anemia – feeling very tired, short of breath, and lightheaded, dizzy; a fast heartbeat or pale skin. 
  • Loss of appetite or a change in the way food tastes or smells. Mouth and throat problems, nausea and vomiting can also make it difficult to eat. 
  • Bruising and Bleeding or tiny purple red spots on your skin, due to a lower number of in platelets in the blood
  • Constipation from pain medicines, changes in diet, not drinking enough fluids and being less active
  • Delirium is a confused mental state that includes changes in awareness, thinking, judgment, sleeping patterns, as well as behavior 
  • Diarrhea can be caused by some medicines, infections and stress
  • Swelling in your feet, ankles, and legs, hands and arms, face or abdomen; and skin that is puffy, shiny or looks dented after being pressed.
  • Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nerves that carry information from the brain to other parts of the body. Side effects depend on which peripheral nerves (sensory, motor or autonomic) are affected.
    •  Sensory nerves help you feel pain, heat, cold, and pressure. You may feel tingling, numbness, or a pins-and-needles feeling in your feet, hands, legs and arms.
    • Motor nerves help your muscles move.  You may feel weak or achy muscles, loss of balance or trip easily, difficulty swallowing or breathing. 
    • Autonomic nerves  control functions such as blood pressure, digestion or heartrate, temperature, and urination. Damage causes digestive changes such as constipation or diahrrea; dizzy or faint feeling, due to low blood pressure. Also sexual, sweating or urination problems, such as leaking urine or difficulty emptying your bladder.
  • Skin, Nails and Lips can become cracked and dry
  • Sleep Problems and Insomnia rob you of rest needed for healing. 

We want to encourage all cancer fighters to speak up about any problems you have so your health care team can help you reduce these side effects and make you more comfortable. Sharing this information also empowers cancer fighters to maximize their resources to fight their best fight–and feel as good as possible while doing so! Also keep in mind that side effects vary from person to person, even among people receiving the same type of cancer treatment.

Have you experienced other silent symptoms not listed here? Let us know about your silent symptoms in the comments. Talking about these things gives you the power and lets other cancer fighters know it is okay to talk about what they are experiencing too.

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