Cancer and its treatment can cause several complications, including:
May 23, 2015
- Pain. Pain can be caused by cancer or by cancer treatment, though not all cancer is painful. Medications and other approaches can effectively treat cancer-related pain.
- Fatigue. Fatigue in people with cancer has many causes, but it can often be managed. Fatigue associated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments is common, but it's usually temporary.
- Difficulty breathing. Cancer or cancer treatment may cause a feeling of being short of breath. Treatments may bring relief.
- Nausea. Certain cancers and cancer treatments can cause nausea. Your doctor can sometimes predict if your treatment is likely to cause nausea. Medications and other treatments may help you prevent or decrease nausea.
- Diarrhea or constipation. Cancer and cancer treatment can affect your bowels and cause diarrhea or constipation.
- Weight loss. Cancer and cancer treatment may cause weight loss. Cancer steals food from normal cells and deprives them of nutrients. This is often not affected by how many calories or what kind of food is eaten; it's difficult to treat. In most cases, using artificial nutrition through tubes into the stomach or vein does not help change the weight loss.
- Chemical changes in your body. Cancer can upset the normal chemical balance in your body and increase your risk of serious complications. Signs and symptoms of chemical imbalances might include excessive thirst, frequent urination, constipation and confusion.
- Brain and nervous system problems. Cancer can press on nearby nerves and cause pain and loss of function of one part of your body. Cancer that involves the brain can cause headaches and stroke-like signs and symptoms, such as weakness on one side of your body.
- Unusual immune system reactions to cancer. In some cases the body's immune system may react to the presence of cancer by attacking healthy cells. Called paraneoplastic syndrome, these very rare reactions can lead to a variety of signs and symptoms, such as difficulty walking and seizures.
- Cancer that spreads. As cancer advances, it may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Where cancer spreads depends on the type of cancer.
- Cancer that returns. Cancer survivors have a risk of cancer recurrence. Some cancers are more likely to recur than others. Ask your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk of cancer recurrence. Your doctor may devise a follow-up care plan for you after treatment. This plan may include periodic scans and exams in the months and years after your treatment, to look for cancer recurrence.
- Deaths and mortality. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Cancer: All sites. Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results. http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/all.html. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Symptoms. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/diagnosis-staging/symptoms. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Kushi LH, et al. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: Reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012;62:30.
- Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Genetic and epigenetic alterations in cancer. In: Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Ulcerative colitis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/colitis/index.htm. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- NINDS paraneoplastic syndromes information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/paraneoplastic/paraneoplastic.htm. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Deng GE, et al. Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology: Complementary therapies and botanicals. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. 2009;7:85.
- Taking time: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/takingtime. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 1, 2015.
- Hypercalcemia (high level of calcium in the blood). Merck Manual Home Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-balance/hypercalcemia-high-level-of-calcium-in-the-blood. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- What is cancer? National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/what-is-cancer. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Cancer prevention overview (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/overview/patient/page1/AllPages. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- The genetics of cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes-prevention/genetics. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Understanding cancer risk. Cancer.Net. http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/prevention-and-healthy-living/understanding-cancer-risk. Accessed April 23. 2015.
- Cancer screening overview (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/screening/overview/HealthProfessional. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Diagnosis. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/diagnosis-staging/diagnosis. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Staging. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/diagnosis-staging/staging. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- Making decisions about cancer treatment. Cancer.Net. http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/making-decisions-about-cancer-treatment. Accessed April 23, 2015.
- How cancer is treated. Cancer.Net. http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated. Accessed April 23, 2015.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.