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Uterine Cancer: Side Effects

Common side effects of cancer and/or cancer treatments include:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell level): Red blood cells carry oxygen through the body. If your body does not have this oxygen, you may feel tired. Decreased red blood cell counts can be caused by small amounts of blood loss, by chemotherapy or radiation or by the cancer itself.
  • Anxiety and depression: Many people may feel blue, anxious or distressed after being told they have cancer. You may have these feelings as well if you were told that you needed to have a hysterectomy. These feelings may continue or come back during your recovery from surgery or during other treatments.
  • Appetite changes: People who eat well during cancer treatment maintain their strength better, are more active and are better able to lower their chance of infection. It is important to remember that your body needs energy to heal itself. Maintaining your weight is a good way to know if you are giving your body the energy it needs. When you are being treated for cancer, a diet high in calories and protein is best. The problem is that side effects of treatment, especially chemotherapy, can make you not want to eat. Some chemotherapy treatments can change the way food tastes to you. Hormone therapy can also cause appetite changes.
  • Bleeding: Bleeding from the vagina maybe a side effect of surgery to remove your uterus. It is normal to have vaginal bleeding or brownish spotting for 1 to 3 weeks after surgery and some spotting for up to about 6 weeks after surgery. If you have more bleeding than this, you should let your doctor know.
  • Constipation: This may be a side effect of chemotherapy or some pain medicines used after surgery. Constipation, which includes difficult or infrequent bowel movements, can range from mildly uncomfortable to painful.
  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea includes loose or frequent bowel movements, or both. It may be a side effect of external radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Many drugs can cause bowel changes, too. Diarrhea may lead to dehydration if you do not take these precautions.
  • Hair loss (alopecia): This can be a side effect of chemotherapy. Losing your hair can be upsetting because thinning or baldness is a visible reminder that you are being treated for cancer. Keep in mind that your hair will grow back after treatment.
  • Hot flashes: You may have hot flashes, as well as other symptoms of menopause, if you have surgery to remove your uterus. A hot flash is also called a hot lush. It is a sudden rush of warmth to the face, neck, upper chest and back – with or without sweating. It can last for a few seconds to an hour or more.
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping): Insomnia can be caused by anxiety, depression or your cancer treatment.
  • Mouth sores (mucositis): Some types of chemotherapy may cause mouth sores. Mouth sores may hurt and make eating an unpleasant experience.
  • Nausea or vomiting: Nausea or vomiting as a result of chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer may range from barely noticeable to severe. The different types of nausea are:
    • Acute-onset nausea and vomiting: Occurs within a few minutes to several hours after chemotherapy. The worse episodes tend to be 5-6 hours after treatment and the symptoms end within the first 24 hours.
    • Delayed-onset vomiting: Develops more than 24 hours after treatment.
    • Anticipatory nausea and vomiting: Learned from previous experiences with vomiting. As you prepare for the next dose of chemotherapy, you may anticipate that nausea and vomiting will occur as it did previously, which triggers the additional episode.
    • Refractory vomiting: Occurs after one or more chemotherapy treatments – essentially you are no longer responding to antinausea treatments.

  • Neutropenia (low white blood cell levels): Throughout your treatment, your doctor will test your blood. One thing he or she is checking for is your white blood cell count. Without enough white blood cells, your body may not be able to fight infection. Many types of chemotherapy can cause low white blood cell counts.
  • Numbness, tingling or muscle weakness in your hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy): If you have numbness, tingling or weakness in your hands and feet, you may have nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. Some types of chemotherapy are known to cause this. Other signs of this problem are ringing in your ears or trouble feeling hot or cold.
  • Pain: You may have pain from the cancer itself, from surgical incisions or from internal radiation.
  • Sexual problems: A change in your sex drive or problems with vaginal scarring, dryness or tightness can all affect your sexual well-being. These can be caused by the hysterectomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or hormone therapy. Some effects may resolve over time. Your doctor and nurse can give you suggestions for dealing with all these effects on your sexual health.
  • Skin dryness or irritation: This may be a side effect of some hormone therapies or with chemotherapy.
  • Trouble thinking and remembering: You may have mild problems with concentration and memory during and after hormone therapy or chemotherapy. Being tired can make this worse.
  • Tiredness: Tiredness is a very common symptom and side effect from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. You may feel only slightly tired, or you may suffer from extreme fatigue. Fatigue can last 4-6 weeks after treatment ends.
  • Vaginal dryness and other vaginal problems: Vaginal dryness and discharge can result from having a hysterectomy, which leads to menopause. In addition to vaginal dryness, lowered estrogen levels may cause women to have vaginal thinning and difficulty or painful intercourse. Lubricants can help with some of these problems. Vaginal infections may also occur more often. When you talk with your doctor about these problems, make sure he or she knows you’ve had cancer.
  • Weight gain: Some women can gain weight as a side effect from steroids or antinausea medications or from hormone therapy.
Last updated: 5/26/2010 3:10:33 PM