• Managing the Side Effects of Kidney Cancer and Cancer Treatment

    The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about some of the side effects associated with kidney cancer and its treatment. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions related to your specific treatment.
    Side effects are common and you may experience different ones during your treatment. Medications and other therapies may help to either prevent or reduce side effects of treatment, or to manage certain side effects when they occur. You can develop side effects from the treatment and/or from the cancer itself. Tell your doctor when you notice a new symptom, and ask if any of these treatments are appropriate for you.

    Lack of Appetite

    A loss of appetite is common during cancer treatment. Fatigue, discomfort, nausea, dry mouth, mouth sores, and loss of taste can play a part in reducing your desire to eat. To manage this common side effect, consider:
    • Talking to a registered dietician for nutrition suggestions
    • Eating frequent, small meals instead of three large meals
    • Eating healthy foods that appeal to you
    • Eating around your appetite—if you are most hungry in the morning, then that is when you should eat a large meal
    • Asking your doctor about liquid meal supplements; some of these may be a good way to take in the calories you need
    • Drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel like eating

    Nausea and Vomiting

    Chemotherapy and radiation can cause nausea and vomiting. To treat this side effect, you may be prescribed an anti-nausea drug. Some patients also find hypnosis, guided imagery, relaxation techniques, and acupuncture helpful. Eat frequent, small meals; sip water throughout the day; and avoid fatty, spicy, or greasy foods. You may want to talk to a registered dietician about other ways you can reduce nausea and vomiting with diet.

    Skin Problems

    You can develop a rash or your skin can become red and tender from your treatment. To treat skin irritations:
    • Use only mild soap and warm water when washing your skin.
    • Stay out of the sun.
    • Avoid hot showers.
    • Use lotions or creams that are approved by your doctor.
    • Be gentle with your skin:
      • Pat dry instead of rubbing.
      • Wear gloves when cleaning or gardening.


    Fatigue is common in cancer patients. Medications, low red blood cell levels, emotional stress, pain medications, weight loss, and lack of appetite can all cause fatigue. Based on what is causing your fatigue, your doctor may recommend medications, a blood transfusion, a change in pain medications, talking to a therapist, exercise, and/or vitamins. Getting enough rest and listening to your body when you need to rest are also an important part of treating fatigue.

    Mouth and Lip Sores

    Chemotherapy can cause the mouth and/or lips to develop sores. To manage this side effect:
    • Eat soft, bland foods.
    • Avoid spicy, hot, or cold foods.
    • Suck on ice chips or drink small sips of water throughout the day.
    • Use a lip balm on your lips.
    • Avoid citrus foods.
    • Use a straw when drinking.


    Going through treatment for cancer is stressful. You may benefit from a support group or talking to a therapist or clergy member. Your doctor or nurse can help you find the right type of emotional support for you.


    Cancer drugs work by attacking cells that divide quickly. Not only do cancer cells divide quickly, so do blood cells. Depending upon your treatment, you may experience side effects that affect your blood cells, making you more prone to infection. Other side effects include bruising easily, fatigue, and bleeding easily.

    Hair Loss

    Chemotherapy frequently causes hair loss. If your hair falls out, then wear a scarf or hat to protect the skin on your scalp. Consider wearing a wig.


    Medications, especially pain medicines, can cause constipation . Eat whole grain foods and drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation. Staying active with exercise is also a good way to prevent this side effect.


    Diarrhea can occur with certain cancer treatments. If you have diarrhea, then avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy or fatty foods, and large meals. Replenish lost fluids with juice, broth, water, or a replacement fluid.


    Opioid analgesics may be ordered to control pain or discomfort. They include the following drugs:
    • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lor-tab)
    • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
    • Morphine (Astramorph PF, Duramorph, Kadian, MS Contin, OMS Concentrate, Oramorph SR, RMS, Roxanol)
    • Oxycodone and Acetaminophen (Percocet)
    Opioid analgesics act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. These drugs can be effective. They may cause dependence, and patients will need increasing doses to obtain the same pain relief. If you are going to take one of these drugs for a long period of time, then your doctor will closely monitor you.
    Percocet is a combination medication. An opioid analgesic and acetaminophen used together may provide better pain relief than either medicine used alone. In some cases, lower doses of each medicine are necessary to achieve pain relief.
    The most common side effects of opioid analgesics include:
    • Constipation
    • Lightheadedness
    • Drowsiness
    • Nausea or vomiting
    Use With Caution
    Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.


    Cancer related pain. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/pain/index . Accessed June 20, 2013.

    Coping with cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/physicaleffects . Accessed June 20, 2013.

    What you should know about cancer treatment, eating well, and eating problems. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/eatinghints/page2 . Updated September 30, 2009. Accessed June 20, 2013.

    6/25/2008 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Thomas J, Karver S, Cooney GA, et al. Methylnaltrexone for opioid-induced constipation in advanced illness. N Engl J Med . 2008;358:2332-2343.

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