New targeted cancer treatments that use nano technology and immunotherapy are emerging every day. Targeted therapies are less toxic and less invasive than traditional chemotherapy, giving oncology providers and patients with cancer much to be excited about.
However, these new medicines can have embarrassing (and infrequently life-threatening) side effects. Although these therapies target specific cancer cells in the body, they can affect some healthy cells as well, which could lead to different type of side effects not seen with the older cancer drugs. Some of the most common side effects of new targeted therapies include diarrhea, liver problems, skin problems, blood clotting, wound healing, high blood pressure, and digestive issues.
Although oncology teams have a lot of experience helping patients cope with nausea, vomiting, and hair loss during chemotherapy, they now must find ways to help patients combat side effects that were not seen with older cancer drugs.
How Patients Cope
As with chemotherapy, some patients need to take breaks from targeted therapies, while others need to lower the drug doses. Some side effects decrease over time, and others can be controlled with different medication. In certain instances, the side effect is actually evidence that the treatment is working.
Dealing with these side effects can be frustrating, but most of them are not life-threatening, and the benefits of targeted therapies far outweigh the risks. Patients who respond to these targeted treatments generally see the side effects as a small price to pay for the life-extending benefit of these new therapies.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute