Skip to main content

Managing Symptoms & Side Effects

Managing pain, symptoms and the side effects that come with cancer can be difficult. Here are answers to some common questions.

This information will help you understand what you or your loved one is going through and help prepare you for what may happen. 

Each circumstance is different. These symptoms and side effects may not occur for everyone.

Pain & symptom management clinics

You can also get help from one of the pain and symptom management clinics in our regional centres. 

You do not need a referral to visit one of these clinics. 

More information on:

This is a difficult time for loved ones. As cancer progresses, many patients become weaker and are less able to function than they were previously.


As Cancer Progresses - Info Sheet.pdf


Balance is the ability to stay in a steady position without falling. Coordination is the ability to use different parts of the body together. Balance and coordination can be affected by cancer and caner treatments.


Balance and Coordination - Info Sheet.pdf


Like pain, breathlessness is a sensation that can be judged only by the person experiencing it.

Breathlessness - Info Sheet.pdf

This is a feeling like you cannot completely move your bowels ("go poop"), or are moving them less often than usual.

Patient handout: How to treat constipation caused by your medications

English: How To Treat Constipation Caused By Your Medications - Info Sheet.pdf

Traditional Chinese: How To Treat Constipation Caused By Your Medications Traditional Chinese - Info Sheet.pdf

Simplified Chinese: How To Treat Constipation Caused By Your Medications Simplified Chinese - Info Sheet.pdf

Punjabi: How To Treat Constipation Caused By Your Medications Punjabi - Info Sheet.pdf

Patient handout: Food choices to manage constipation

English: Food choices to manage constipation - Info Sheet. pdf  

Diarrhea is defined as more than two loose or watery stools ("poop"), per day

Diarrhea - Info Sheet.pdf

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. While everyone knows what it feels like to be occasionally exhausted, cancer-related fatigue can be debilitating. It feels terrible!

Fatigue/Tiredness- Info Sheet.pdf

Cancer treatments can cause hair loss and changes in the way you look and feel.


Hair Loss and Appearance - Info Sheet.pdf

Loss of appetite is not feeling hungry or having no desire to eat.


Loss of Appetite - Info Sheet.pdf

Lymphedema is a build-up of fluid. When the flow of lymph fluid is impaired, excess lymph accumulates, usually in an arm or leg, causing lymphedema.

Lymphedema - Info Sheet.pdf

All types of cancer treatments can affect thinking, memory and attention.

Memory, Thinking and Attention - Info Sheet.pdf

‎Xerostomia (dry mouth) and oral mucositis (redness and sores) are common side effects of cancer treatment.


Mouth and Teeth - Info Sheet.pdf

Nausea (feeling ill or sick to your stomach) or vomiting (throwing up or puking) may be caused by the cancer itself, or the cancer treatments such as chemo therapy, radiation therapy or surgery. 

Nausea and Vomiting - Info Sheet.pdf

Cancer and cancer treatment can sometimes result in nerve damage. Damage to the long nerves is called “peripheral neuropathy.” 

Peripheral neuropathy usually causes pain, numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes, but can progress up the limbs to involve the feet and legs, hands and arms.  

Some chemotherapy drugs are associated with nerve damage. These include cisplatin, oxaliplatin, paclitaxel, and vincristine.

Peripheral nerves can heal, so damage from peripheral neuropathy may not be permanent. 

Nerve Damage - Info Sheet.pdf

Neutrophils (new-tro-fils) are a type of white blood cell. White blood cells fight infections or germs. Neutropenia (new-tro-pee-nee-ah) is when the neutrophil count in your blood is too low and your body is less able to fight infections.

Neutropenia - Info Sheet.pdf

Pain is an unpleasant physical or emotional experience. While not all cancer patients will experience pain, approximately two thirds of patients will have pain at some point during their illness.

Pain - Info Sheet.pdf

Men and women who are experiencing the effects of cancer and its treatments may have problems with intimacy and sexuality.

Sexual Problems - Info Sheet.pdf


The skin is the body's first line of defense against bacteria.

There are a number of skin symptoms that come with cancer treatments. Skin problems may include dryness, rash, itching, peeling, sores, pain and swelling.


It is important for you to be aware of skin problems so they can be treated quickly to reduce discomfort and the risk of infection.


Skin and Wounds - Info Sheet.pdf


‎You may be wondering about not getting enough sleep.  Here is some information to help you understand the important part that sleep plays in cancer care. 

Sleeping Problems - Info Sheet.pdf

SOURCE: Managing Symptoms & Side Effects ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Cancer Agency. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2017 Provincial Health Services Authority