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Testicular cancer chemotherapy side effects

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This page tells you about chemotherapy side effects for testicular cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Testicular cancer chemotherapy side effects

Chemotherapy for testicular cancer can cause side effects. You may not have all the side effects listed here. Different people are affected in different ways. Many side effects can be controlled with medicines so let your doctor or nurse know if you have side effects.

All chemotherapy increases your risk of infection because it lowers your white blood cell count. If you get a temperature, or other signs of infection such as a cough, contact your treatment team straight away. You may need antibiotics.

Men with testicular cancer may have a combination of drugs called BEP. Treatment with BEP may cause

  • Sickness
  • Hair loss
  • Low blood cell count
  • A flu like reaction, with fever and chills
  • Changes in your skin and nails (including dark lines on the skin which later fade)
  • Mouth sores
  • Changes in hearing
  • Taste changes
  • Pins and needles in fingers and toes

Possible permanent side effects

Most people don't have permanent side effects. But some may have side effects that do not disappear completely. Occasionally permanent side effects include infertility, lung changes, hearing changes, numbness or tingling in fingers and toes. Your doctor or nurse will monitor you for any side effects after your treatment.

 

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

 

 

General side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy increases your risk of infection. This is because the chemotherapy lowers your white blood cell levels. If you get a temperature, or other signs of infection such as a cough, contact your treatment team straight away. If you have an infection, you may need antibiotics to treat it. There is more about infection and other general side effects of chemotherapy in the main chemotherapy section.

 

Side effects of BEP chemotherapy

Men with early stage seminoma may have 1 dose of carboplatin. The most common side effects of carboplatin are tiredness and feeling sick

Men with early stage non seminoma or testicular cancer that has spread often have treatment with a combination of drugs called BEP, which includes the drugs

Treatment with BEP may cause

Many of these side effects can be reduced with medicines that your doctor or nurse can prescribe. So do let them know if you have any side effects. Paracetamol may help to reduce flu like symptoms. Your doctor or nurse will give you mouthwashes to help stop mouth ulcers getting infected and to reduce soreness. 

All these side effects will improve after your treatment has ended. Mostly they will go altogether. Your hair will grow back after 3 to 6 months.

Many men who lose their hair decide to wear a wig or a hat. Most patients can get a free wig from the NHS. Your doctor or nurse can arrange for a wig specialist to visit you.

 

Possible permanent side effects

Most people don't have permanent side effects. But some may have side effects that don't disappear completely. Your doctor or nurse will monitor you for any side effects once your treatment has ended. It is important to let them know if you have side effects because they can often suggest things to help. Possible permanent side effects include

Sperm changes and infertility

You should use a reliable method of contraception while you are having chemotherapy and for a couple of months afterwards. The drugs may damage your sperm so it is important not to father a child during this time. You may be infertile for a while after treatment. But many men get their fertility back.

Lung changes

Bleomycin can sometimes cause inflammation in your lungs. Usually this is mild, but rarely it can be permanent. If you notice any breathlessness or develop a cough while you are having treatment, you should tell your specialist straight away. It may be necessary to change your dose, or change to another drug.

Hearing changes

Cisplatin can affect your hearing. Some men develop ringing in the ears. Sometimes hearing is affected permanently, with a loss of hearing of high pitched sounds. The range of sound affected is outside the normal level of speech, so it is very unusual for anyone to need to have any sort of hearing aid after this treatment. But you need to tell your specialist if you notice any hearing difficulties.

Numbness or tingling in your fingers and toes

Cisplatin can also cause numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes. This is because the drug can affect your nerves. You may find it more difficult to do fiddly things, such as doing up buttons or even writing. This usually gets better slowly, after you finish the treatment. But sometimes people treated with cisplatin have permanent nerve damage. Again, tell your specialist if you notice any problems.

 

More information about side effects

You can find information about the side effects of the drugs used to treat testicular cancer in our cancer drugs section. You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

There are books and booklets about chemotherapy side effects, some of which are free. Look at the testicular cancer reading list page for details.

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Updated: 17 September 2014