Cancer and its treatment can cause several complications, including:
- Pain. Pain can be caused by cancer or by cancer treatment, though not all cancer is painful. Medications and other approaches can effectively treat cancer-related pain.
- Fatigue. Fatigue in people with cancer has many causes, but it can often be managed. Fatigue associated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatments is common, but it's usually temporary.
- Difficulty breathing. Cancer or cancer treatment may cause a feeling of being short of breath. Treatments may bring relief.
- Nausea. Certain cancers and cancer treatments can cause nausea. Your doctor can sometimes predict if your treatment is likely to cause nausea. Medications and other treatments may help you prevent or decrease nausea.
- Diarrhea or constipation. Cancer and cancer treatment can affect your bowels and cause diarrhea or constipation.
- Weight loss. Cancer and cancer treatment may cause weight loss. Cancer steals food from normal cells and deprives them of nutrients. This is often not affected by how many calories or what kind of food is eaten; it's difficult to treat. In most cases, using artificial nutrition through tubes into the stomach or vein does not help change the weight loss.
- Chemical changes in your body. Cancer can upset the normal chemical balance in your body and increase your risk of serious complications. Signs and symptoms of chemical imbalances might include excessive thirst, frequent urination, constipation and confusion.
- Brain and nervous system problems. Cancer can press on nearby nerves and cause pain and loss of function of one part of your body. Cancer that involves the brain can cause headaches and stroke-like signs and symptoms, such as weakness on one side of your body.
- Unusual immune system reactions to cancer. In some cases the body's immune system may react to the presence of cancer by attacking healthy cells. Called paraneoplastic syndromes, these very rare reactions can lead to a variety of signs and symptoms, such as difficulty walking and seizures.
- Cancer that spreads. As cancer advances, it may spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Where cancer spreads depends on the type of cancer.
- Cancer that returns. Cancer survivors have a risk of cancer recurrence. Some cancers are more likely to recur than others. Ask your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk of cancer recurrence. Your doctor may devise a follow-up care plan for you after treatment. This plan may include periodic scans and exams in the months and years after your treatment, to look for cancer recurrence.