Nasopharyngeal cancer chemotherapy side effects | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Nasopharyngeal cancer chemotherapy side effects

Men and women discussing nasopharyngeal cancer

This page tells you about the side effects you may have from chemotherapy for nasopharyngeal cancer. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Nasopharyngeal cancer chemotherapy 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.

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 that you will be having.

Side effects of chemoradiation

Chemoradiation means having 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, your mouth may become so sore that you have difficulty swallowing. If this happens, you may 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 nasopharyngeal cancer section.

 

 

Who gets 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 tell how you will react until you have had that particular drug.

 

Common chemotherapy side effects

Side effects that are common with many chemotherapy drugs include

The links above will take you to more information about these side effects and how to deal with them.

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

Doctors most commonly use the chemotherapy drug cisplatin to treat nasopharyngeal cancer. We have more information about the side effects of cisplatin and more about the side effects of cancer drugs.

 

Blood tests

You will have regular blood tests to check the levels of your blood cells. If your blood cell counts are too low, your doctor may delay your next chemotherapy treatment until your cells have recovered. 

If you are low on white blood cells, you are more at risk of picking up infections. You may have antibiotics to try to prevent infection. 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.

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

One of the possible side effects of cisplatin chemotherapy is kidney damage. You will have blood tests before each treatment to check how well your kidneys are working. To help prevent damage, you will have fluid through a drip before and after you have treatment. Your doctor will also encourage you to drink plenty of water.

 

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. You might find that you need to rest and take things easy at times. If you find it difficult to do household jobs you could try asking friends or family for help. Or the staff at the hospital can arrange for you to see a social worker.

Remember – all these side effects will begin to get better as soon as the treatment is over. Remembering that the side effects are usually temporary may make them easier to cope with at the time.

 

Side effects of chemoradiation

Chemoradiation or synchronous therapy means having a course of radiotherapy at the same time as a course of chemotherapy. The side effects of this treatment are the same as for radiotherapy and chemotherapy on their own. But some are likely to be more severe. There is more information about the side effects of combination treatment on our page about chemoradiation for nasopharyngeal cancer.

Rate this page:
Submit rating
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 26 August 2014