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 from Leukemia Treatments

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.)

Targeted Therapy
Side effects including swelling, bloating, sudden weight gain, anemia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle craps, or rashes.

Biological Therapy
Side effects differ with the types of substances used and from person to person. Common side effects include rash or swelling at injection site, headache, muscle aches, fever or weakness.

Radiation Therapy
Side effects of external radiation therapy may include skin changes, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, painful sores in the mouth and throat and dry mouth or thick saliva. Most side effects of radiation are temporary, but some rare serious side effects can be permanent.

Stem Cell Transplant 
Side effects of stem cell transplants include infections and bleeding due to the large doses of chemotherapy or radiation, and other side effects of those treatments. Stem cell transplants from donated stem cells can lead to Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD), a disease in which the donated white blood cells in the stem cell graft react against the patient’s normal tissues. This most often affects the liver, skin or digestive tract. GVHD can be mild or severe, and can occur at the time of transplant or years later.

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