‘[Having] confidence on side effects and also the prognosis going forward … having more certainty of those areas would have been really useful.’

It is important to not confuse the side effects of cancer treatment with cancer symptoms. Side effects are unwanted and unpleasant symptoms caused by drugs or procedures. Cancer symptoms are caused by the cancer itself, not the treatment. Because many cancer treatments do not specifically target the part of the body where the cancer is located, other parts of the body can also be affected by the treatments, making you feel unwell.

Treatment can control cancer growth and therefore also control cancer symptoms. Side effects can be managed through additional treatments, medicines or psychological interventions. Because people can react differently to the same treatment, their experiences of side effects can also be different. It’s important to note the following.

  • Some side effects are minor and can be managed, while others may be more difficult.
  • Some side effects can be uncomfortable.
  • Some side effects can be serious health conditions that require more treatment.
  • Most side effects are reversible when treatments stop, but some are permanent.
  • Some people don’t experience any side effects from treatments, while some people experience many.

Always talk to members of your healthcare team (e.g. doctor, nurse) about side effects because there may be ways of managing them.