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 Myelodysplastic Syndrome Treatments

Blood Transfusions
Patients who receive frequent red blood cell transfusions may have their tissues and organs damaged from the buildup of extra iron. Iron Chelation Therapy is a treatment that uses drugs that attach to the extra iron. The drug and the iron are removed from the body in the urine.

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.)

Stem Cell Treatments
Side effects are generally divided into early and long-term effects. They may include:

Damage to the ovaries causes infertility and abrupt menopause, usually with symptoms such as hot flashes and loss of menstrual periods.

Damage to the thyroid gland may produce problems with metabolism.

Cataracts, clouding of the lens of the eye that can decrease vision, may occur.

The most serious side effect from allogeneic transplants is called graft-versus-host disease (or GVHD). This occurs when the new immune cells attack the patient's tissues because they see them as foreign. This is more common if the donor is unrelated or if the cells aren't completely matched.

GVHD can occur early in the transplant process - this is called acute GVHD. It can also start later and last a long time - this is called chronic GVHD. Common sites of GVHD include the skin, where it can cause a rash, blistering, or open sores. When GVHD affects the intestines, it can cause diarrhea, which can be severe. It can also cause liver and lung problems. Drugs to suppress the immune system are given as part of the transplant to prevent GVHD. If GVHD develops despite these drugs, additional treatments to suppress the immune system may be needed.

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