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chemo & radiation effects

Posts: 2
Joined: Feb 2004

I have just been diagonized with rectal cancer. I am starting chemo and radiation on Tuesday and was wondering what I can expect as side effects. I am hoping to work through the next six weeks.

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Welcome Alicemarie-sorry to hear of your cancer-I am new here but would suggest that more info would help others to reply.
Ie; did you have surgery?
do you know what chemicals will be involved?
This will help others to help you as all chemicals have different side effects.Also some of us on the same chemo treatment rarely get the same side effects.The chemicals react in different ways according to many factors.
EXAMPLE -your general health/height/weight/male/female/cancer stage--lots of things.
I had bowel cancer/surgery to remove 1/3, chemo for 6 months(still on it)
My side-effects were nausea/fatigue/tiredness/mouth ulcers/headaches/mood swings---all considered normal--however not everyone suffers these and some suffer to a greater extent--everyone is different.I am sure with some more detail you will receive other replies.
cheers and our best wishes, kanga and Jen

Posts: 232
Joined: Apr 2003

Hi Alice- I had radiation therapy along with 5-FU (that is a chemotherapy agent, but also is used as a radiosensitizer to enhance the response of the tumor to radiation.) Some people are now using Xeloda (capcitobene) which is an oral medication that acts like 5-FU.

I worked through almost all of my radiation/chemo with only a few problems. One thing to ask you radiation oncologist is whether the rectal tumor is low enough that they will have to radiate the skin around the anus. If they have to do this, my radiation oncologist told me I would probably be very sore down there for a few weeks and may want to take some time off work. Fortunately he managed to spare me this by 1 cm.

I did develop bad inflammation of my rectum the last week, and I miserable enough that I took a day or two off work. My oncologist gave me some steroid suppositories which made the world of difference.

5-FU can cause irritation of mucus membranes - nose, mouth, urethra. I had a crusty slightly bloody nose after about 3 wks. Kind of like I get in really dry weather in the winter. It was only a mild annoyance. I never got any sores in my mouth or irritation of my urethra, but some people do. They can give you a mouth wash, and a urinary pain reliever if these are a problem.

The other thing that sometimes happens is to get red sore hands and feet. This was not a problem during my radiation, although I had some bigger problems with this recently, having been on Xeloda for 8 mths.

Here is hoping that all goes smoothly.


jsabol's picture
Posts: 1156
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi Alicemarie,
Welcome to the club, which has been extremely helpful to me since my diagnosis in Nov 03. Sounds like you are having radiation before surgery? As kanga said, there are different agents used for chemo, and you might want to click on "sricar's" posting, newly diagnosed, a little further down on the board. Lots of good info in those replies. I just realized, after reading Kris' response, that my dry crusty "winter nose" is far worse than other years, but frequent sprays with a natural lubricant helps tremendously.
I keep my journal at the computer, and write down multiple questions for my onc; I find that he is very responsive to specific questions, but tends to be vague and upbeat if I don't ask. Best of luck to you. Judy

Posts: 238
Joined: Sep 2003


I'm sorry about your cancer diagnosis. Cancer unequivocally sucks. You sound like a real trooper though, continuing to work is a brave decision. How are you presently feeling? I was diagnosed January 03 with stage 3 rectal cancer and I started off with 6 weeks of radiation and infusional chemo. I have to say that it was one of the hardest legs of my journey. HOWEVER, I was very, very sick at the time of my diagnosis. Since I was young, no one suspected rectal cancer. By the time they diagnosed me, I had lost 30 pounds, my hemoglobin was 60something because I had lost so much blood (there was rectal bleeding for about 5 months) and I had no energy oh, and I was in constant pain from the 7cm tumour. SO, being in that state and facing radiation/chemo was tough. I slept about 18 hours a day (I think radiation is supposed to be what tired me out) and was in pain, but that was from the tumor. I wasn't nauseous and I prevented burning with LOTS of baths (like, 6 a day). Well, there was some painful burning in my vaginal area but they had to zap me in front and back because the tumour extended to my vaginal wall. I'm probably not the best person to ask about side effects from chemo/radiation because I was so sick at the time of diagnosis. It's hard to separate what was what. Anyways, if you have any questions just post them up. There are fabulous people here with a great wealth of experience and advice.

Good luck,

Posts: 9
Joined: Feb 2004

I was diagonized with rectal cancer June 21 2002.I since have had radiation,chemo,and finally
surgery to remove my rectum and part of my colon.Sure I had side effects,but like the others said they vary from person to person.Like
I didn't loose any hair.I had some nausea,but learned that if you don't eat before you go to get chemo you won't feel soo bad.If you do ask your doctor for some zofran for your nausea.I can tell you that worked great for me.As far as the rest of it goes just take it one day at a time,thats all you can do....Good luck and God bless.

StacyGleaso's picture
Posts: 1248
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi Alice...

I didn't have any side effects from my chemo. Never missed a day of work. I don't understand it, but am SO thankful. Drink a lot of water prior to chemo and afterwards. You want to flush your system of it, and remain hydrated. I had 5 FU, camposar, and leuvorican (sp?). No hair loss, no nausea. I think I was so afraid of getting nausea, that I didn't eat prior to chemo either. Then, for some reason, peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly) seemed to taste really good afterwards. I have heard people getting a metal taste in their mouths, and mouth sores. Popsicles were given out after chemo for those who wanted it, and that seemed to help.

Good Luck,


Posts: 50
Joined: May 2003

My husband was diagnosed with rectal cancer April '03 and had chemo: 5FU/Luecovorin/Oxiplatin and radiation, then surgery in August.
He did not lose any hair, and had minimal trouble with mouth sores. He was nauseous initially, but there are several Rx's now to help with it and they found one that worked for him (although I don't remember what it's called). Mostly, he had problems with diarrhea and fatigue, he was also very sensitive to cold for a week or so after receiving Oxiplatin.
He did not work through treatment but his job is in sales so it would have been near impossible to take breaks, rest, etc and still perform well enough at work for it to be worth being there.
I'm very sorry to hear of your diagnosis, but you will be amazed at the positives that come from it.
Good luck and god bless.

Posts: 3
Joined: Feb 2004

hi, my name is denise. My husband also was diagnosed with rectal cancer in jul '03 he had 6wks of chemo/radiation then surgery in nov with a temp illostomy it was reversed in dec. He just started chemo 5fu/luecovorin he has to go 6mos once a week to get treatment. HOw did your husband do with the surgery? My husband is in alot of pain in his rectum area. thanks i'm a 1st timer with csn.

Posts: 12
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi alicemarie, I had continuous 5 fu pump along with daily radiation for 3 months, right after my tumor was removed. Because I had an ileostomy, I had alot of nutritional problems along with the side effects, which can be nausea, foot and hand syndrome, dizziness, ect. it really depends on the person. Hope you do well, and be sure you ask for biafine cream. I used it 3 times daily and after 3 months of having radiation 5 days a week, I never burned once. Glad you came here for advice.

nanuk's picture
Posts: 1363
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi Alicemarie: Like everyone sez, individuals respond differently- keep up your exercise,nutrition and attitude during treatment, and a good read for inspiration is Lance Armstrong's "It's Not The Bike"
You might also search the phrase "newly diagnosed"
on this site for additional info. We'll be here to
support you during the next six weeks.. Bud

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