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Short-Term Side Effects – Chemotherapy, Radiation

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While (chemotherapy drugs) are powerful enough to kill rapidly growing cancer cells, they also can harm healthy cells. This may cause a number of short-term side effects. The severity of these side effects depends on your overall health, age, and type of chemotherapy…”

In order to manage a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, my painful experience is that patients and caregivers must also understand the damage done by chemotherapy and radiation aka short-term side effects.

I say this because surviving cancer and its short-term side effects since my diagnosis of MM in early 1994 has taught me that patient and caregivers can manage their cancer more effectively by developing a basic understanding of the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of their cancer diagnosis.


Learning about your incurable blood cancer IN ADDITION to the many possible side effects is a lot to ask but I believe that it is better to learn about the entire picture at the beginning of this long journey than learn about it repeatedly when you least expect it.

Too many cancer survivors finish their initial, active therapy, ring the bell, and think that they are done with therapy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For years I’ve believed that once your induction therapy ends, the work really begins- nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle therapies.

When I say “learn about it” I’m talking about the damage done by toxic therapies aka short, long-term and late stage side effects and how to minimize or even prevent adverse events.

This blog post focuses on short-term side effects.

To learn more about the issue of side effects from conventional cancer therapies-

To be clear, short-term side effects are those health problems caused by chemo or radiation that should heal once toxic therapy ends. While the risk is low, death has occurred because of short-term side effects.

The 11 side effects listed below are the ones I developed during my active therapy between 2/94 and 9/97.  I list each because I experienced each, researched each and finally, healed/managed each.

Each side effect below is common to all types of cancer therapies. While not every cancer survivor will experience each side effect below, chemotherapy is cumulative meaning if the patient undergoes enough of their chemo/radiation, they will almost certainly will experience the side effects below.

I consider the first four side effects below- nausea, fatigue, diarrhea and constipation, to be the big four short-term side effects experienced by cancer patients.  Just about everyone experiences these short-term therapy induced side effects. 

  1. Chemotherapy-induced Diarrhea-

“Severe diarrhea resulting in dehydration, neutro-penia, fever, malnutrition, renal insufficiency, infectious complications, or severe electrolyte imbalances can lead to hospitalization…”

2. Chemotherapy-induced constipation

“There are a few factors at play when it comes to chemotherapy and constipation. In some cases, chemotherapy may cause changes to the lining of the intestine, leading to constipation. Changes in your eating habits or activity level may trigger bowel irregularity as well.

You might be taking medications to manage other side effects during chemotherapy. These can also leave you constipated.”

My solutions always were non-conventional- fiber, hydration, exercise, even colonics in the case of severe constipation.

  3. Chemotherapy-induced nausea-

Most every patient undergoing chemotherapy experiences nausea. Chemotherapy’s side effects are often cumulative. This is to say that you might feel okay after round 1. Take things one step at a time and be prepared.

In many ways, nausea is the most distressing short-term side effect of the cancer patient

No one heals or cures their nausea. You simply manage it as best you can.

My coping strategies are:

  • Small meals- Smoothies beat Juicing-
  • Stay hydrated-
  • Take ginger, drink ginger tea-
  • Acupuncture/Acupressure can help…a lot

According to research, CBD oil helps chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting-

  4. Chemotherapy/Radiation-induced fatigue-

   5. Radiation-induced Skin Injury-

Local radiation and skin injury go hand-in-hand. I underwent local radiation to both my neck as well as my iliac crest (lower back) and the skin was damaged in both areas.

   6. Psychiatric Changes- Corticosteroids-

Cancer patients can experience a wide range of mood issues caused by high-dose steroid therapy. My wife simply expected my dramatic mood swings on dexamethasone days. If you experience mental issues with dexamethasone talk to your oncologist and ask to reduce the dose.

   7. Chemo/Radiation-induced Infertility

   8. Tinnitus-

   9.  Cataracts-

   10. Alopecia (hair loss)

   11. Low Testosterone- Healed

To ask me a question about your short-term side effects scroll down the page and post a question or comment. I will rely to you ASAP.

Hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

The Effects of Chemotherapy on Your Body

“After receiving a cancer diagnosis, your first reaction may be to ask your doctor to sign you up for chemotherapy. After all, chemotherapy is one of the most common and most powerful forms of cancer treatment. But chemotherapy does a lot more than get rid of cancer.

While these drugs are powerful enough to kill rapidly growing cancer cells, they also can harm healthy cells. This may cause a number of side effects. The severity of these side effects depends on your overall health, age, and type of chemotherapy…”

Learn more about how chemotherapy affects your body.

Chemotherapy-induced diarrhea (CID)

Background: Chemotherapy-induced diarrhea (CID) is a predictable yet undertreated side effect of several frequently used chemotherapy agents and can lead to delays in treatment and poor quality of life. Although the exact cause of CID is not completely understood, various theories point to a multifactorial process resulting in an imbalance between the absorption and the secretion of fluid in the gastrointestinal tract…”

How Constipation Feels

“Constipation is when you have stools that are hard to pass, you don’t feel like you pass all of your stool, or there are four or more days between one bowel movement and the next.

Constipation can make you feel constantly bloated or uncomfortable. You may also experience harmful side effects, such as bowel obstructions, due to chronic constipation…”

Cancer-Related Fatigue: The Approach and Treatment

“Survivors with a variety of malignancies may experience fatigue. Many potential barriers to the identification of this symptom in a cancer survivor may exist, due in part to both the patient and the clinician. Assessment of patients for fatigue is important because it can profoundly effect their daily lives. Many factors contribute to CRF. Hence, the clinician may face a daunting challenge in attempting to alleviate CRF.

Treatment modalities for CRF include: nonpharmacologic interventions, such as psychosocial interventions, exercise, sleep therapy, and acupuncture. Pharmacologic interventions include stimulants, namely modafinil and methylphenidate. In some patients antidepressants may be beneficial. Clinicians should assess cancer survivors for the presence of fatigue and focus on its treatment in an attempt to ensure that these patients have the best possible symptom control…”

Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting: Optimizing Prevention and Management

“Nausea and vomiting are serious side effects of cancer chemotherapy that can cause significant negative impacts on patients’ quality of life and on their ability to tolerate and comply with therapy. Despite advances in the prevention and management of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), these side effects remain among the most distressing for patients…”

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