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Managing the Side Effects of Kidney Cancer and Cancer Treatment
by Debra Wood, RN
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about some of the side effects associated with kidney cancer and its treatment. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions related to your specific treatment.
Side effects are common and you may experience different ones during your treatment. Medications and other therapies may help to either prevent or reduce side effects of treatment, or to manage certain side effects when they occur. You can develop side effects from the treatment and/or from the cancer itself. Tell your doctor when you notice a new symptom, and ask if any of these treatments are appropriate for you.
Lack of Appetite
A loss of appetite is common during cancer treatment. Fatigue, discomfort, nausea, dry mouth, mouth sores, and loss of taste can play a part in reducing your desire to eat. To manage this common side effect:
Nausea and Vomiting
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause nausea and vomiting. To treat this side effect, you may be prescribed an antiemetic. Some people also find hypnosis, guided imagery, relaxation techniques, and acupuncture helpful. Eat frequent, small meals. Sip water throughout the day; and avoid fatty, spicy, or greasy foods. Talk to a dietitian about other ways you can reduce nausea and vomiting with diet.
Skin Problems TOP
You can develop a rash or your skin can become red and tender from your treatment. To treat skin irritations:
Fatigue is common in people with cancer. Medications, low red blood cell levels, emotional stress, pain medications, weight loss, and lack of appetite can all cause fatigue. Based on what is causing your fatigue, your doctor may recommend medications, a blood transfusion, a change in pain medications, talking to a therapist, exercise, and/or vitamins. Getting enough rest and listening to your body when you need to rest are also an important part of treating fatigue.
Mouth and Lip Sores TOP
Chemotherapy can cause the mouth and/or lips to develop sores. To manage this side effect:
Going through treatment for cancer is stressful. Learn how to manage stressful situations within your control. Regular exercise may help.
Cancer drugs work by attacking cells that divide quickly. This also affects the white blood cells that fight infection. Depending upon your treatment, you may experience side effects that reduce your white blood cell count. This may make you more prone to infection. Other side effects include bruising easily, fatigue, and bleeding easily.
Hair Loss TOP
Chemotherapy frequently causes hair loss. If your hair falls out, then wear a scarf or hat to protect the skin on your scalp. Consider wearing a wig.
Medications, especially pain medications, can cause constipation. Eat whole grain foods and drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation. Staying active with exercise is also a good way to prevent this side effect.
Diarrhea can occur with certain cancer treatments. If you have diarrhea, then avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy or fatty foods, and large meals. Replenish lost fluids with juice, broth, water, or a replacement fluid.
Opioids may be ordered to control pain or discomfort. They include:
Opioids act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. These drugs can be effective. They may cause dependence, resulting in increased doses to obtain the same pain relief. If you are going to take one of these drugs for a long period of time, then your doctor will closely monitor you.
Percocet is a combination medication. An opioid and acetaminophen used together may provide better pain relief than either medication used alone. In some cases, lower doses of each medication are necessary to achieve pain relief.
The most common side effects of opioids include:
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
Cancer pain. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
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Accessed January 3, 2017.
Cancer pain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113832/Cancer-pain. Updated. November 22, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Opioids for chronic cancer pain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 1, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Radiation therapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/radiationttherapy.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Side effects. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects. Updated April 29, 2015. Accessed January 3, 2017.
6/25/2008 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113832/Cancer-pain: Thomas J, Karver S, Cooney GA, et al. Methylnaltrexone for opioid-induced constipation in advanced illness. N Engl J Med. 2008;358(22):2332-2343.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 12/29/2015