Chemotherapy Side Effects

Recognize and Report Your Side Effects Early!

  • Take control of your life by learning about your condition and talking openly and honestly with your healthcare team to understand your treatment and its possible side effects.
  • Staying in touch with your body during treatment can help you spot side effects early. Report them right away to your doctors and nurses. Preventing side effects or treating them early can help you feel as good as possible during treatment.
  • Use a journal or calendar to record the details of your treatment, instructions given to you, your progress, and how you are feeling.

Call Roswell Park Cancer Institute at (716) 845-2300 or the Roswell Park Amherst Center at (716) 845-2900.

In any emergency, call 911.

Managing Side Effects


Take your temperature every day. Watch for: any signs or symptoms, such as muscle aches; headache; cough; difficulty breathing; pain, burning, or blood during urination; urinating more or less often than usual; unusual discharge from your vagina or penis; or any areas with pus formation, redness, heat, or swelling.

Call us if your temperature is 100.4ºF or higher or you have any sign or symptom of infection.

Allergic Reaction

Watch for rash, itching, hives, palpitations, dizziness, swelling or tingling in mouth/ throat.

Call us if you have ANY sign of an allergic reaction.


Watch for: bowel movements (BMs) looser or 2-3 times more frequent than normal (for you), changes in stool color or firmness, or increase in your ostomy output.

Call us if you have increased stomach cramping, diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours, or diarrhea that contains blood or that is accompanied by severe cramping or pain.


Watch for: bowel movements firmer or harder to pass than normal; feeling bloated or less hungry; or an increase in stomach pain or cramps.

Call us if it has been more than 2 days since you normally would have had a bowel movement or if you need a laxative or stool softener to have a bowel movement (and you didn’t before treatments began).

Upset Stomach, Vomiting

Know that your treatment may change your interest in food and odors may increase nausea. Note the timing of any vomiting.

Call us if you cannot eat or keep food down for 24 hours, vomit more than three times in one day, have projectile vomiting (vomiting with force), or have difficulty swallowing.

Mouth Sores

Watch for: redness, tenderness, or swelling of your lips, gums, or tongue, changes in your saliva, or dryness in your mouth. Brush gently, avoid mouthwash containing alcohol, and see your dentist regularly.

Call us if you have discomfort when you eat or drink; or open sores, blisters, cracking, or bleeding on your lips, gums, mouth, or throat.

Nervous System Changes

Watch for: changes in vision, hearing, touch, balance, walking, fine motor ability (such as picking up small objects and buttoning clothes).

Call us if you have muscle weakness; numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, hands, or feet; loss of balance or clumsiness; confusion; dizziness; trouble breathing cold air or trouble touching cold items.

Hair, Skin, and Nails

Watch for: small red dots on your skin, any skin rashes, brittle nails, pale or red skin, or itching or peeling skin.

Call us if your skin color changes, or you have redness, swelling, or soreness on the spot where you receive your medicine.

Fluid Imbalance/Edema (Swelling)

Weigh yourself daily. Measure “around” at the same spot on each ankle, wrist, and calf, and around your neck at the start of treatment and regularly thereafter. Watch for: shoes
feeling tight or an inability to remove your rings. Push gently on the area for 15 seconds and then quickly remove your fingers - edema will cause the skin to remain dimpled after you’ve removed your fingers.

Call us if you have weight gain of 2-3 pounds a day for two days in a row (weight gain may precede edema that can be seen), are urinating less than 1 cup per day, or if swelling becomes excessive.


Watch for: easy or excessive bruising. Monitor the color of your bowel movements.

Call us if you have unusual bruising, bloody nose, bleeding in your mouth, blood in your urine, bowel movement, or vomit (blood in bowel movements or vomit may look black); or coughing or spitting up blood.


Call us if you have severe muscle cramps or bone pain.

Fatigue & Mood

Call us if you:

  • find it hard to function because you are so tired or feel exhausted even though you have had enough sleep.
  • feel so anxious or sad that it is hard to get through the day.