The surgery or medicine you get for your lung cancer may cause side effects. Side effects are problems that occur when surgery or your medicine affects healthy parts of your body. The side effects may depend on the type of medicine you are taking. Some side effects are common, but others may potentially be serious or deadly.

To keep track of side effects, keep a journal. If your medicine makes you feel bad, write it down and tell your doctor the next time you see him or her.

Always talk to your doctor about any side effects you have. This will help him or her make better decisions about your care. You can read about the different types of side effects below.

Side effects of surgery

Surgery to remove the tumor may be an option for patients with lung cancer. Lung cancer surgery can be complex and there can be potential serious side effects. Some side effects are listed below.

  • Reactions to anesthesia
  • Excess bleeding
  • Blood clots in legs or lungs
  • Wound infections
  • Pneumonia

Side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment using medicine to kill cancer cells. Sometimes healthy cells are also killed. These include cells that line the mouth and gut or cause hair to grow. Some side effects of chemotherapy are listed below.

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anemia
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Pain

Side effects of radiation therapy

Radiation therapy treats cancer by using high doses of radiation. The radiation kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors. More than half of all cancer patients get radiation to treat their disease. Radiation therapy can kill cancer cells but may also hurt nearby healthy cells. Healthy cells almost always get better after radiation therapy is finished; however, sometimes patients may have side effects that are severe or do not get better. Some common side effects of radiation include the following:

  • Skin changes
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sexual changes
  • Swelling
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Urinary and bladder changes

Side effects of immunotherapy

Immunotherapy for cancer involves using medicines to help your immune system fight cancer. Some help your immune system find and kill cancer cells. Healthy cells may also be affected. Others make the immune system stronger to fight cancer cells. These medicines can cause side effects, some of which are serious and may be fatal. Some side effects of immunotherapy are listed below.

  • Skin reactions at the needle site
    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Soreness
    • Redness
    • Itchiness
    • Rash
  • Flu-like symptoms
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Trouble breathing
    • Low or high blood pressure

If you go to a hospital emergency room, tell the nurses and doctors that you are taking these medications.

Side effects of targeted therapy

Targeted therapies use medicines to target the change in cancer cells so they cannot grow, divide, and spread. Healthy cells may also be affected. These medicines can cause side effects, some of which are serious and may be fatal. Some side effects include the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Liver problems
  • Blood clots
  • Problems with wound healing
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Mouth sores
  • Nail changes
  • Loss of hair color
  • Skin problems

Tips to help manage side effects

There are many ways to help manage side effects. You can also do things to prepare ahead of time. Some tips are listed below.

If you are feeling tired, try the following:

  • Relaxation: Meditation, prayer, and yoga may help you relax and feel less stressed
  • Simple eating and drinking habits: Try eating 5 to 6 smaller meals rather than 3 large meals. Food should be easy to make and you should drink plenty of fluids
  • Planned rest time: You may feel better when you take naps for less than an hour
  • Exercise: Being active can help you feel less tired during the day. Try light exercise to keep your energy levels up
  • 8 hours of sleep: You may be more likely to sleep well at night if you are active during the day. Try to find time to relax before bed

If your stomach is upset or you are throwing up, try the following:

  • Eat a bland diet: Having bland, easy-to-digest foods and drinks that do not upset your stomach may help
  • Plan eating and drinking: You may prefer to eat before receiving medicine or to get your medicine on an empty stomach. Try one or the other to see which works best for you
  • Avoid strong smells: Avoid strong-smelling foods and drinks, like fish, coffee, onions, and garlic

If you have mouth sores, try the following:

  • Go to the dentist: If you can, get all the dental work you need done before you start taking medicine
  • Check your mouth and tongue every day: Finding mouth sores early means they can be treated right away
  • Brush and floss your teeth: Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue after meals with an extra soft toothbrush. Floss gently and brush with fluoride toothpaste. Do not use alcohol-based mouthwash
  • Eat carefully: Avoid foods that can make your mouth sores worse. Eat soft, cool foods slowly

If you are losing hair, try the following:

  • Cut or shave your hair: You may feel more in control of your hair loss if you cut or shave it before you start losing it
  • Choose a wig before starting chemotherapy: This can be helpful for matching the color and style of your hair before you start losing it
  • Use gentle hair products: Mild shampoo, like baby shampoo, can be less harsh on your hair and scalp

If you are in pain, try the following:

  • Relaxation: Try deep breathing, yoga, or other ways to relax. Relaxing can help reduce muscle tension, anxiety, and pain
  • Take your pain medicine: If prescribed pain medicine, take it as prescribed. Your doctor may suggest taking the pain medicine on a set schedule

If you have skin changes, try the following:

  • General skincare: Take good care of your skin. Do not rub, scrub, or scratch affected areas. Use skincare products only if your doctor said that they are okay to use
  • Avoid extremes: Do not use very hot or very cold products on the areas of your skin that are affected