Side effects

Whatever type of treatment you’re having, the main aim will be to prevent further growth and, where possible, rid your body of the cancer.

But your treatment may also cause side effects. Although treatments target cancer cells, they can affect other healthy cells that divide and reproduce quickly, such as the cells found in the stomach, skin, mouth, hair and bone marrow. It depends on your type of treatment but common side effects include hair loss, increased risk of infection, changes to your weight, tiredness, problems with concentration and thinking, and issues with eating and digestion.

If you’re having problems because of your treatment, always ask your care team for help. And try to remember that, although the side effects of cancer treatment can be worrying and difficult to deal with, most of them are only short-term and will gradually disappear once your treatment is complete.

Some types of cancer treatment, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can increase the risk of later developing another type of cancer. However, this is a rare occurrence – the risk is small compared to the risk of leaving your original cancer untreated.

This section outlines some of the more common side effects of cancer treatments. Your medical team may give you medication before the side effects make themselves felt. But if you are struggling with side effects at any point, don’t hesitate to tell your doctor or nurse right away so they can respond quickly.

For tips that have helped other young people cope with side effects, see our pages on healthy living, coping with sickness and your appearance.

Updated December 2014, next planned review 2017.