Side effects of cancer drugs

The side effects you might have vary from person to person and depend on the cancer drugs you are taking.

Side effects can happen as a direct result of medical treatment. All drugs used to treat cancer cause side effects. It can be easy to confuse drug side effects with symptoms of cancer.

Symptoms happen as a direct result of your cancer and are not due to your treatment. Treatment aims to shrink your cancer and make your symptoms better but can cause side effects.

Different drugs have different side effects

Not all drugs cause hair loss or sickness. And the side effects of each drug vary for different people.

You might get only very mild side effects. You might get 1, 2 or a few side effects of a particular drug. It is not possible to say beforehand whether you will have a particular side effect, when the effect will start or stop, or how bad it will be for you.

Side effects depend on many factors including:

  • which drugs you are having
  • how long you have been taking the drug
  • your general health
  • the dose (amount of drug)
  • the way you have the drug (for example, as a tablet or injection)
  • other drugs or cancer treatments that you are having

Ask your doctor or nurse to write down the names of your drugs so that you can look each one up.

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© Cancer Research UK [2002] All right reserved. Information taken 23/02/2018.