Common Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

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Cancer treatment, whether through chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of both, can lead to several unpleasant side effects. Side effects happen because, despite doctors’ best efforts to target cancer cells, healthy cells can also be affected by the treatment. They can be damaged or destroyed. Not everyone experiences the same side effects. In addition, some people have only mild side effects while they can be quite difficult for others. If your aging relative is beginning treatment for cancer, knowing about some common side effects, like the ones below, can help you to be prepared for them.

Frequent Infections

Cancer itself can sometimes damage the immune system. However, in most cases, it is the cancer treatment that causes problems. Damage to the immune system or treatments that directly affect it, such as a bone marrow transplant, can leave the older adult more susceptible to all kinds of infections. One way to prevent infections is for the older adult and those who come into contact with them to wash their hands frequently. If the senior does show signs of an infection, contact the doctor to report them right away.


Lymphedema occurs when the lymphatic symptoms is damaged, such as when a lymph node is removed. It causes lymph fluids to build up in the tissues, making the affected part of the body swell. Swelling commonly occurs in the arms and legs but can also affect other parts of the body. Lymphedema may start shortly after surgery. In that case, it is usually temporary and goes away in about a month. It can also start months or years after treatment ends. When that happens, it can be a long-term problem.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are two of the most well-known side effects of cancer treatment. Some people experience these side effects after having a chemotherapy or radiation treatment. There are also people who feel ill just from thinking about treatment. There are medications that can help with managing nausea and vomiting. In addition, drinking water or ginger ale may help. In fact, because vomiting can increase the risk of dehydration, it’s especially important for seniors who vomit because of cancer treatment to drink plenty of fluids.

Senior care can help your aging relative through cancer treatment and its side effects. A senior care provider can offer comfort and companionship while the older adult is receiving chemotherapy and when they are feeling unwell. Senior care providers can also prepare small, frequent meals that can help with nausea and vomiting and make sure they drink plenty of water and other liquids.


If you or an aging loved one is considering senior care in Ashburn, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 982-0050.