Skip to content

    Cancer treatments have come a long way. Some of them can affect other parts of the body, too. These are called side effects.

    When you know how to manage them, it can make your daily life more comfortable.

    Cancer treatments can cause a variety of side effects, and they vary from one person to the next -- even among people who get the same treatment.

    How it affects you depends on things like:

    • How old you are
    • The strength of the treatment
    • Whether you have other health issues

    Your doctor is part of a team that will help you deal with whatever happens. Tell her about any side effects you feel or see.

    Problems With Eating and Digestion

    Appetite: Cancer treatment can affect your metabolism, making you less hungry. But good nourishment is vital.

    Try to eat five or six small meals a day instead of the traditional three big ones. Snack on things with lots of calories and protein, such as nut butters, cheeses, ice cream or protein bars.

    If you have trouble tasting food, add spices or condiments to give food more flavor. If your mouth has a metallic taste, suck on mints or lemon drops before you eat.

    Mouth problems: Treatments can harm cells in the mouth or make it produce less saliva.

    If your mouth is dry:

    • Sip water throughout the day.
    • Rinse your mouth several times a day with a mix of warm water, salt, and baking soda.

    If your mouth is sore:

    • Ask your medical team about lozenges or sprays that numb the discomfort,
    • Avoid foods that are crunchy, salty, spicy or sugary.
    • Stay away from alcoholic drinks and tobacco.
    • As a precaution, check your mouth every day for sores.

    Nausea: If you often feel sick to your stomach, medicine may help curb the discomfort. It might help to eat a snack before you go in for treatment. If greasy, fried, or spicy foods bother you, avoid them.

    In the bathroom: If it seems like you need to have a bowel movement, but you can’t -- a problem called constipation -- try to drink more liquids, eat food with fiber, and get more physical activity.