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by Carson-DeWitt R

Managing the Side Effects of 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 cancer or its treatment.

Medications to Help Manage Nausea and Vomiting

Common names are:
  • Dexamethasone
  • Dronabinol
  • Granisetron
  • Lorazepam
  • Metoclopramide
  • Ondansetron
  • Prochlorperazine
Common problems for dexamethasone are:
Common problems for dolasetron are:
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Belly pain
Common problems for dronabinol are:
  • Vertigo
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness
Common problems for granisetron are:
  • Belly pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
Common problems for lorazepam are:
  • Clumsiness or unsteadiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech 
Common problems for prochlorperazine are:
  • Blurred vision, changes in color vision, problems seeing at night
  • Fainting
  • Loss of balance
  • Restlessness or need to keep moving
  • Shuffling walk
  • Stiffness of arms or legs
  • Trembling and shaking of hands and fingers
Common problems for metoclopramide are:
  • Diarrhea (with high doses)
  • Sleepiness
  • Restlessness
Common problems for ondansetron are:
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache

Medicine to Ease Pain

There are many methods to ease pain linked to cancer and its treatments.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs ease pain and inflammation from:
  • Cancer that has spread to your bones
  • Fluid build up caused by the tumor or treatments
Common NSAIDs are:
  • COX -2 antagonists
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
Common problems are:
  • Stomach cramps, pain, or discomfort
  • Sleepiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Heartburn, indigestion, nausea, or vomiting
Corticosteroids
Like NSAIDs, corticosteroids help to ease pain and inflammation.
Common names are:
  • Dexamethasone
  • Prednisone
Common problems are:
  • Increased appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Nervousness or restlessness
Opioid Pain Relievers
Opioids act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. They may cause dependence, resulting in higher doses to obtain the same pain relief. You will be watched by your doctor if you have to take opioids.
Opioids are:
  • Fentanyl transdermal patch
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
Acetaminophen is often blended with an opioid to give better pain relief than using one medicine alone. These are:
  • Acetaminophen with hydrocodone
  • Acetaminophen with oxycodone
Some problems are:
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation

Medicine to Support Your Blood Cells

During cancer treatment, blood cells can be destroyed along with cancer cells. Medicine to boost blood cells counts are:
  • Darbepoetin alpha
  • Epoetin /EPO/Erythropoietin—red blood cells
  • Filgrastim /G-CSF—white blood cells
  • Oprelvekin—platelets
  • Pegfilgrastim
Filgrastim helps your bone marrow make new white blood cells. White blood cells fight off and lower the risk of infection.
Epoetin helps your bone marrow to make new red blood cells This will lower the risk of anemia. It takes some time for the medicine to work. A blood transfusion can be done if you need red blood cells sooner.
Oprelvekin helps boost platelet numbers. Platelets help your blood clot, so very low counts can lead to serious bleeding. If your platelet counts fall below a specific level, you may be given transfusions.
Common problems for darbepoetin alpha are:
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
Common problems for filgrastim are:
  • Headache
  • Pain in arms or legs
  • Pain in joints or muscles
  • Pain in lower back or pelvis
  • Skin rash or itching
Common problems forepoetin are:
  • Cough, sneezing, or sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swelling of face, fingers, ankles, feet, or lower legs
  • Weight gain
Common problems for pegfilgrastim are:
  • Bone pain
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breathing problems

References

Cancer pain. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/pain.html. Accessed August 21, 2019.
Cancer pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cancer-pain. Updated July 1, 2019. Accessed August 21, 2019.
Opioids for chronic cancer pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/opioids-for-chronic-cancer-pain. Updated November 2, 2018. Accessed August 21, 2019.
Pain control. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/paincontrol.pdf. Accessed August 21, 2019.

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