Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

This information is useful for children, adults, and older adults
Woman suffering from symptoms, possibly as a side effect of cancer treatment

Cancer treatments have been improving for decades. Researchers are not only developing treatments that are more effective, but they are also highly focused on reducing their side effects. This is important, given that here in the United States we now have nearly 16 million people living with a history of cancer. That number is expected to increase to more than 20 million by 2026.  

Any problem that affects your healthy tissue and organs and arises as a result of cancer treatment is called a cancer treatment side effect. Side effects can vary from person to person and from treatment to treatment, to the extent that two people receiving the same treatment may experience very different side effects. Some experience side effects that arise during treatment and improve over time, which is the most common scenario. But some people experience severe side effects that last for months or even years after treatment is completed. If you are experiencing any side effects from your cancer treatment, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor. Treatment of side effects is an important part of cancer care and your quality of life.

At the Cancer Survivorship Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital, a team of health care providers helps patients deal with side effects they’re experiencing.

“Everybody is different, but there are common themes related to the side effects of treatment, like gaining weight,” says Tara Sanft, MD, a medical oncologist who is the program’s director. “Other concerns have to do with fatigue related to treatment, getting back to or trying to start an exercise regimen, and intimacy and sexual side effects.”