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Managing the Side Effects of Kidney Cancer and Cancer Treatment

Here are the basics about each of the medicines below. Only the most common reactions are listed. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special steps. Use each of these drugs as advised by your doctor or the booklet they came with. If you have any questions, call your doctor.
Medicine may help ease or prevent side effects of treatment, or to control certain side effects once they happen. These effects can happen from kidney cancer or its treatment.

Lack of Appetite

A loss of appetite is common during cancer treatment. Feeling tired, discomfort, nausea, dry mouth, mouth sores, and loss of taste can discourage eating. To manage these problems:
  • Talk to a registered dietitian. They can suggest easier ways to get good nutrition.
  • Eat smaller meals more often.
  • Choose fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. These foods have high nutrition value.
  • Eat based on your hunger level.. For example, if you are most hungry in the morning, then that is when you should eat a large meal.
  • Ask your dietitian about liquid meal supplements. Some of these may be a good way to take in the calories you need.
  • Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel like eating.

Nausea and Vomiting

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause nausea and vomiting. You may be given medicine that can help.
Some people also find hypnosis, guided imagery, relaxation techniques, and acupuncture helpful.
Daily habits that may help include:
  • Eat smaller meals more often.
  • Sip water throughout the day.
  • Avoid fatty, spicy, or greasy foods.
A dietitian can help you choose foods that will not cause more problems.

Skin Problems

Your skin can become sensitive. Try to protect your skin:
  • Use only mild soap and warm water.
  • Stay out of the sun.
  • Avoid hot showers.
  • Use lotions or creams that your care team suggests.
  • Be gentle with your skin:
    • Pat dry instead of rubbing.
    • Wear gloves when cleaning or gardening.

Feeling Tired

Cancer and treatment can both make you feel tired. It can cause changes such as low red blood cells which make it harder for your body to work. Emotional stress and low nutrition will also have you feeling tired. Treatment such as medicine or vitamins can help to balance the effects of cancer or treatment. Counseling can help you balance stress.
Rest when you need to. Balance periods of activity with rest. Let your team know how you are feeling throughout treatment.

Mouth and Lip Sores

Chemotherapy can cause the mouth or lips to develop sores. To help with this problem:
  • Eat soft, bland foods.
  • Avoid spicy, hot, or cold foods.
  • Suck on ice chips or drink small sips of water throughout the day.
  • Use a lip balm on your lips.
  • Avoid citrus foods.
  • Use a straw when drinking.

Stress

Going through treatment for cancer is stressful. Ask your care team for options to help manage stress. Therapy and group support can be helpful. It can help you develop new thought patterns. Regular exercise may also help.

Infection

Cancer drugs affect the white blood cells that fight infection. This may make you more prone to infection. Other side effects include bruising or bleeding easily, or feeling tired. Medicine, other treatments or self care may help you manage these risks.

Hair Loss

Chemotherapy can cause hair loss. There are many services to help you cope with hair loss. A scarf or hat can help to protect the skin on your scalp. You may also choose to wear a wig. Ask your care team, whether your treatment may lead to hair loss and what steps may help.

Constipation

Some medicines, especially pain medicines, can cause constipation. Whole grain foods and plenty of fluids can help to prevent or ease constipation. Staying active with exercise is also a good way to prevent this side effect.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea can happen with certain cancer treatments. Caffeine, alcohol, spicy or fatty foods, and large meals can make it worse. Replace lost fluid with juice, broth, water, or a replacement fluid.

Pain

Opioids may be ordered to control pain or discomfort. They include:
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen
Opioids act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. They may cause dependence, which leads to addiction. You will be watched by your doctor if you have to take opioids.
Percocet is a combination of an opioid and acetaminophen. They may help pain better than one used alone.
Some problems are:
  • Constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
Special Considerations
When taking any medicine:
  • Take medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Be aware of the side effects of your medicine. Tell your doctor if you have any.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Medicine can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medicine. This includes over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • Plan for refills as needed.

References

Cancer pain. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/pain.html. Accessed February 28, 2020.
Cancer pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cancer-pain. Updated July 1, 2019. Accessed February 28, 2020.
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Accessed February 28, 2020.
Opioids for chronic cancer pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/opioids-for-chronic-cancer-pain. Updated December 20, 2019. Accessed February 28, 2020.
Radiation therapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/radiationttherapy.pdf. Accessed February 28, 2020.
Side effects. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects. Accessed February 28, 2020.

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