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.

Colorectal Treatment Side Effects

Side Effects vary according to treatments. The most commonly reported symptoms are the following:

Radiation Therapy
Although radiation therapy is rarely used to treat Colorectal Cancer, if a patient receives this treatment, it may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or urinary discomfort.

Chemotherapy 
Side effects depend on the specific drugs and the dose and include hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and mouth sores.

Bowel Obstructions/Perforations
Because Colorectal Cancer occurs in the digestive system, the cancer itself and treatments for the cancer tend to affect both what goes in and what comes out of the system. For this reason, if you have colon or rectal cancer, you will probably experience some changes in your appetite and bowel movements, and you will most likely need to change your diet to help manage symptoms or side effects.

Obstructions and/or perforations can be caused by the cancer itself or by scar tissue from surgery or radiation to areas around the colon and rectum. Perforation is also a very rare side effect of the targeted therapy bevacizumab.

Bowel perforations are medical emergencies that require immediate surgery. Bowel obstructions can also be emergencies, or – if the intestines are only partially blocked – they can be long-term conditions. In any event, if you experience severe abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting that doesn’t go away during or after colorectal cancer treatment, call your doctor or go to the emergency room to get checked right away.

Symptoms of bowel obstruction and/or perforation may include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, bloating, inability to pass gas, constipation or diarrhea and loss of appetite.

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