Chemotherapy Common Side Effects


My mum is due to start treatment in the next few weeks for abdominal stage 4 cancer and I wondered what the common side effects are please so I can be prepared and support her the best I can.

Any advice welcome 

Thank you in advance 

  • Hi AlanJ94,

    Thanks for getting in touch. I am sorry to hear about your mum’s diagnosis. It is only understandable that you have questions around her treatment and for what may lie ahead.

    From your message I was unsure about which specific cancer treatment your mum is due to start. It may be helpful if you could forward this information to allow us to offer you some more direct advice. It may also be useful to call one of our nurses directly. We are always happy to take the time to talk over any questions or concerns that you are having.

    I noticed that you have joined our chemotherapy forum and wondered if this may be the treatment that you mum is due to start. I hope you don’t mind but I thought it may be helpful to include some advice around chemotherapy for both you and your mum to read over.

    Our booklet on understanding chemotherapy explains much of what to expect from treatment and advice to help patients to manage any effects of chemotherapy. Different chemotherapy drugs can have different effects to an individual.

    Every chemotherapy drug can come with a huge list of possible risk of side effects. There are several different possible side effects of chemotherapy. Different drugs can cause different effects. You can find more information on individual drugs/regimes here.

    It’s important to remember that your mum probably won't get every side effect listed, if any. For some people the effects are mild and for some they can be more intense. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict who will get what and to what extent. Sometimes the side effects of chemo can be unpleasant, but it can help to remember that:

    If your mum develops any side effects or has any new symptoms it is important that she reports them to her specialist team as soon as possible. That way they can support and help to manage any side effects that she may have. If needed her team may also look at changing the dosage of any future treatment or changing the treatment drugs to help reduce any further concerns with side effects.

    Waiting to start treatment can be an anxious time for patients. To help your mum to be prepared you can:

    • Learn ahead of time about her chemo cycles, schedule, and what the aim of treatment is for her cancer.
    • Discuss with her healthcare team how you can get your questions answered between appointments. Including an emergency contact number, should your mum need advice/support urgently or out of normal working hours.
    • Ask about any possible side effects she may experience. What support will be available for your mum to manage any side affects she may experience.
    • Suggest your mum keep a diary, where she can keep track of appointments, medications and any side effects that she may be having, can be helpful.
    • Preparing a hospital pack can be useful for your mum to take into her chemotherapy appointments. Warm socks, snacks/drinks, a book, portable tablet and a blanket are things people may commonly bring with them. Cancer support also offers free kits for those going through chemotherapy, that you can order.
    • Having meals pre prepared and frozen can also save her cooking if she may not feel so great, during treatment. Having plenty of snacks, food and drinks at home can also be helpful. This link has some further tips and advice.
    • Arranging with family and friends about who can offer support with things such as shopping may be a good idea to do. Also arranging for them to check in with your mum regularly (even by phone or text), allows you both further support and peace of mind.

    Understanding your mum’s treatment plan can help in many ways. You'll not only know what to expect, but it can also help you both feel less anxious. It may help to write down questions that your mum may wish to ask her team. This can help with any concerns she may have and allow her a better understanding on what may happen.

    Macmillan have a portable organiser that can be helpful. It helps patients keep track of things such as symptoms, food intake, appointments, medication and much more. It also suggests questions to ask the specialist team.

    Our information on supporting someone with cancer may also be useful to look over. You may also find our online community interesting to have a look at. Our family and friends forum offer further advice, friendship and information to people in similar circumstances. Many people find this kind of support invaluable at time like this.

    Wishing you both well at this difficult time.

    Best wishes


    Macmillan Cancer Information Nurse Specialist

    Audrey - Macmillan Cancer Information Nurse Specialist