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Side effects of chemotherapy for nasal and sinus cancer

Men and women discussing nasal and sinus cancer

This page has information on the side effects of chemotherapy for nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers. You can find the following

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Side effects of chemotherapy for nasal and sinus cancer

Drugs affect people in different ways. Not all patients have the same side effects with the same drug. Some people have very few side effects at all.

Common chemotherapy side effects

Side effects that are common with many chemotherapy drugs include

  • A fall in the number of blood cells, leaving you at risk of infection
  • Feeling sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sore mouth and mouth ulcers
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Feeling tired and run down

Not all these side effects happen with every drug. Ask your doctor or nurse which side effects are most common with the chemotherapy drugs you will be having.

Side effects of chemoradiation

Chemoradiation means having a course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the same time. The side effects of this treatment are the same as for chemotherapy and radiotherapy on their own. But some are likely to be more severe.

In particular, you are likely to get a very sore mouth and throat. For some people, the mouth is so sore that they can't swallow. If this happens, you are likely to need a feeding tube. You will also have strong painkillers.
 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating nasal cancer section.

 

 

Who gets which side effects

Drugs affect people in different ways. Not all patients have the same side effects with the same drug. Some people have very few side effects. It’s not possible to know how you’ll react until you have had that particular drug.

 

Common chemotherapy side effects

Side effects that are common with many chemotherapy drugs include

Not all these side effects happen with every drug. All the drugs have different side effects. The links above will take you to more information about these side effects and how to deal with them.

There is more information about the general side effects of chemotherapy in the main chemotherapy section. Ask your doctor or nurse which side effects are most common with the chemotherapy drugs you will be having.

 

Blood tests

You will have regular blood tests to check your blood cell levels. If you are low on red blood cells, you may need a blood transfusion. Or, if you can't have a blood transfusion, treatment with erythropoietin. This hormone encourages your body to make more red blood cells.

If you are low on white blood cells, you are more at risk of picking up infections. If your blood cell counts are low, you may have antibiotics to try to prevent infection. Your doctor will always advise you to have blood tests just before you have chemotherapy. If your white blood cell count is too low, your doctor may delay your next chemotherapy treatment until your white cells have recovered.

Remember - contact your doctor or chemotherapy nurse straight away if you think you have an infection. If you develop a temperature of 38 degrees C or more, or you feel unwell, let the hospital know straightaway.

 

Feeling tired and run down

Many people are able to carry on almost as normal when they are having chemotherapy. But many others become very tired. The further through your course of chemotherapy treatment you are, the more likely you are to feel tired and run down.

If this is happening to you, try to take things more slowly. If you feel like having a lie down or putting your feet up, then you probably need to do just that. Don't struggle on trying to cope with everything you did before you were ill. You will probably get over the treatment more quickly in the long run if you don't overdo it.

Remember - all these side effects will usually begin to get better as soon as the treatment is over. Holding on to that thought may make them easier to cope with.

 

Side effects of chemoradiation

Concurrent or synchronous chemoradiation means having a course of chemotherapy at the same time as a course of radiotherapy. The side effects of this treatment are the same as for chemotherapy and radiotherapy on their own. But some are likely to be more severe.

In particular, you are likely to get a very sore mouth and throat. For some people, the mouth is so sore that they can't swallow. If this happens to you, you are likely to need a feeding tube so you can get enough liquid and calories inside you. You will also have painkillers. Doctors often use a strong painkiller such as morphine to treat mouth soreness in this situation.

There is more about these side effects in the page on radiotherapy side effects after treatment for nasal cavity or paranasal sinus cancer.

When your mouth and throat are very sore, you have to be particularly careful about infection. Do try to keep your mouth clean and follow the advice of your doctor and dentist. At the first sign of infection (particularly high temperature with chills, a sore chest or cough), contact the hospital. You may need antibiotics through a drip.

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Updated: 24 July 2014