Authored by Revere Health

Tips to Ease Cancer Side Effects

June 29, 2017 | Cancer CenterHematology-OncologyMedical Oncology

Symptoms of cancer vary depending on factors like the location of the cancer, the size and the organ(s) it’s affecting. The treatment methods you undergo will also affect the way you feel.

There are a few relatively common cancer-related side effects, such as fatigue, pain and nausea. No matter which ones you’re dealing with, know that you don’t have to simply sit there and take it—there are steps you can take in coordination with your doctor to help you feel better and manage difficult symptoms. Here are some tips within several common symptom areas.


Cancer fatigue can make many people too tired to do anything, including getting up or basic daily tasks. It can last longer than normal fatigue, and often remain even when you’ve gotten plenty of rest. Some strategies to help with cancer-related fatigue include:

  • Rest: Take 20-minute naps or breaks from activity during the day to help regain strength.
  • Don’t push it: Only do the kinds of activities you can handle. Ask for help from friends and family with any tasks you’re unable to complete.
  • Exercise: Movement actually generates more energy than sitting on the couch or lying down. Even just 15 minutes of basic exercise can help with strength and alertness.
  • Watch your diet: A balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is recommended, along with more protein from eggs, fish, beans and meat.
  • Talk to your doctor about medicines: Certain cancer drugs can lead to sleepiness. If this becomes an issue, ask your doctor if you can change medications or alter the dosage.
  • Yoga or acupuncture: Studies have shown they may help relieve cancer-related fatigue.


Cancer can press on joints, nerves, bones and organs as it spreads. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery can also lead to pain. Pain can range in severity and duration. Some tactics to help ease mild pain include:


  • For dull aches, use heating pads or ice packs
  • Massage or acupuncture
  • Deep breathing, meditation and other relaxation methods
  • Biofeedback—a process that helps you gain control over processes in the body like breathing and heart rate. For some people, it helps with pain level perception
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs (aspirin or Ibuprofen) can help relieve pain symptoms


For steadier or more severe pain, you may be prescribed one of these medications:


  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Opioid pain relievers
  • Steroids


Nausea and Vomiting

Roughly eight out of every 10 people treated for cancer have nausea and vomiting, often caused by radiation or chemotherapy. This can lead to dehydration and limit the quality of life. To combat nausea and vomiting, drugs called antiemetics are used. These are taken either on a daily schedule or whenever you feel sick.

In addition, try to eat bland foods like dry crackers, toast and rice. Avoid foods that trigger nausea, and cook smaller, lighter meals. If you’re struggling to keep food down, speak to your doctor.



Anemia is a condition with which the blood lacks healthy red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to all the tissues in the body, and it can lead to symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and pale skin. Options to combat anemia include:


  • Eat more iron-rich foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables, beans, sweet potatoes and meat
  • Take an iron supplement
  • Receive a blood transfusion
  • Take medications designed to help the body produce more red blood cells


Palliative Care

Palliative care isn’t necessarily a cancer treatment so much as a focus on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life. Palliative care can be done together with cancer treatment or separately. Palliative care treatments can be given at a hospital, at home or as part of a hospice program. A doctor suggesting palliative care doesn’t mean that they’ve given up on treatment, but rather that they’re looking for ways to make you more comfortable.

Your doctor can provide more tips on specific strategies to combat your cancer symptoms if needed.

*Note: No two cancer cases are alike. None of the statements herein are designed to suggest a “one size fits all” approach, and each case will be evaluated individually.


We provide the latest in cancer treatment and technologies, and work with you to determine the best treatment options at any stage of your treatment. 



“Cancer Symptoms: Tips to Help You Feel Better.” WebMD.

“Managing Cancer-related Side Effects.” American Cancer Society.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.