Managing Side Effects

A side effect is any unfavorable or unintended sign, symptom, or disease associated with the use of a therapy. Most treatments for WM come with side effects, which may include one or more of the following: nausea or vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, low blood counts, hair loss, fatigue, infusion reactions, increased risk of infections, and neuropathy.

The website is external), sponsored by the Scott Hamilton CARE Initiative at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center, lists the most commonly used cancer treatments, along with information about how they are administered and their side effects.

One should ask for written information on potential side effects and how to manage them before beginning treatment. It is important during treatment to communicate with one’s health care team. A patient should discuss any new symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, neuropathy, trouble sleeping, sexual problems, weight gain or loss, emotional problems such as anxiety or depression, etc. Even if one is not sure a problem is related to treatment, it should be communicated.

There are ways to help manage many side effects. Anemia can be treated with blood transfusions or with red blood cell stimulating agents such as Procrit or Aranesp. Low white cell counts can be improved with colony stimulating factors such as Neulasta or Neupogen. Hematologist-oncologists may elect to treat patients with antibiotics, anti-fungal agents, and/or anti-viral agents to prevent infections during the treatment and post-treatment periods.

There are medications to help manage nausea and vomiting and other gastrointestinal side effects. Infusion reactions can be minimized by administering Tylenol, Benadryl, and/or steroids prior to and during the infusion or by altering the infusion rate. Neuropathy can be managed by adjusting treatment dosage and/or route of administration or by the use of certain medications for symptom relief.

Eating a healthy diet and starting a gradual exercise program under medical supervision can also help manage side effects and provide an improved sense of well-being following treatment.

For more information about side effects and how to manage them, CancerCare offers a publication(link is external) or go to the National Cancer Institute website(link is external).