Side Effect Management

It helps to learn more about the side effects from your treatment(s) before you begin, so you will know what to expect. When you know more, you can work with your health care team to manage your quality of life during and after treatment.

There are effective and readily available medications to address traditional side effects from cancer treatment (such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation and mouth sores.) Also, as newer 'targeted therapies' become available, they tend to leave people with fewer traditional side effects.

Keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to treatment and experiences side effects differently. There are coping mechanisms and strategies that can help.

Side effects experienced for the treatment of brain and spinal cord tumors vary. Following are the most common symptoms:

Surgery
Surgery on the brain or spinal cord is a serious operation. Surgeons are very careful to minimize complications. However, bleeding, infections, or reactions to anesthesia, while rare, may occur.

The major concern after surgery is swelling in the brain. Drugs called corticosteroids are typically given for several days after surgery to help lessen this risk. A concern when removing brain tumors is possible loss of brain function, which is why doctors are very careful to remove only as much tissue as is safely possible.

Radiation Therapy
A possible side effect of radiation is that healthy brain tissue may also be damaged. A patient may lose function if large areas of the brain receive radiation. Effects can include memory loss, personality changes, and trouble concentrating. Some patients may become irritable and fatigued during the course of radiation therapy. Nausea, vomiting, and headaches are also possible but are uncommon.

Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy has different side effects depending on the type and dose of drugs given and the length of time they are taken. These side effects can include hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, increased chance of infections (due to low white blood cell counts), easy bruising or bleeding (due to low blood platelet counts) and fatigue (due to low red blood cell counts.)

Some of the most effective drugs against brain tumors tend to have fewer of these side effects than other common chemotherapy drugs, which are usually short-term and go away after treatment is finished.


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