Jewish Health

Side effects

Many treatments have side effects which vary depending on the treatment used. People react differently to different treatments.
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Chemotherapy causes many different side effects which vary depending on the type of chemotherapy regimen. Fatigue, numbness in hands and feet, sickness, diarrhoea, aversion to cooking smells and hair loss were some of the side effects of chemotherapy experienced by the people we spoke to.
The VAD chemotherapy David had in hospital for his multiple myeloma reduced his blood counts to zero and he needed to be in isolation for three weeks. Simone had two regimes of chemotherapy for several months. She said she felt fine at first then after a couple of days of having it, “it felt like you’d been hit by a truck.” She had aches, pains and hallucinations and felt lifeless.
People who had surgery to remove ovarian or breast cancer are at risk of developing lymphoedema, which is an abnormal build-up of fluid that causes swelling in the limbs. After surgery for ovarian cancer, Harriet’s right leg had swollen to the “size of an elephant” and she found it hard to walk up hills and it caused backache. She also could no longer extend her leg to the side and back in again and as a result feels she is disabled but tries not to let it stop her doing anything.
Steroids are known to have quite severe side effects if taken over long periods of time. Linda believes that the steroids she has been taking for over 5 years for Crohn’s disease caused the aches and pains she now experiences. When taking steroids to treat her ovarian cancer, Harriet said they made her body feel “jangly and buzzy” and she found it difficult to sleep. Gareth had intense headaches and pain.

M had taken many different drugs over the twenty years since he was diagnosed with Torsion Dystonia and had experienced drowsiness and feeling weak for many years.  

Last reviewed September 2015.

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