Cancer treatments have side effects because it is hard to keep healthy cells safe while trying to kill cancer cells. Side effects of treatment depend on the type of treatment and the person's overall health when treatment starts.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend mostly on the type of drugs taken. Since chemotherapy attacks cells that divide quickly, healthy blood cells can also be affected. There can be a higher chance of infection because of low white blood cell counts. Any symptoms of infection, particularly fever, during chemotherapy should be reported to the doctor or nurse as soon as possible. If platelet counts are down, there may be more bruising and bleeding easily from a cut or injury. Tiredness is also possible because of the lack of red blood cells (anemia). In addition, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, loss of hair, memory problems, and mouth sores are possible side effects. For most people, these side effects go away over time when treatment is stopped. There are drugs that can help reduce the side effects and help people recover from chemotherapy more quickly. The chemotherapy drug mitotane has its own special side effects: nausea, vomiting, depression, dizziness, sleepiness, confusion, and skin rash.
Side effects of radiation can include nausea, diarrhea, skin irritation, loss of appetite, and fatigue. Usually these side effects go away slowly after treatment is over, and many can be helped with certain medications.
After surgery, you may experience pain in the area operated on. This is normal and should not last for long. Laparoscopic surgery produces less pain and quicker recovery. Your surgeon will discuss possible side effects in detail before the surgery. You will usually need to begin taking some form of steroid hormone replacement on a permanent basis. The type of adrenal cancer, called pheochromocytoma, may release a lot of active hormones during biopsy or surgery, and will need to be monitored closely for any high blood pressure problems. It is recommended that patients continue to be followed by an endocrinologist to manage any changes in specific medication. An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the endocrine (hormone) system.