As we all know, almost all drugs have side effects. Immunotherapy also has some side effects that it causes to the patients despite the fact that it does not affect healthy cells as chemotherapy and radiotherapy do. Fortunately, doctors have ways of dealing with these side effects to ensure patients comfort and good health is maintained.
Below are some of the side effects and how they are treated.
50% percent of patients under immunotherapy present with a skin reaction. The skin may turn red, pale or even yellow. It could also be itching, swelling, reddening or even have pain at the site where the drugs are injected into the body. Also, the patient can present with mouth sores and blisters. However, using warm water with unscented soap while bathing or showering reduces swelling of the skin. The patient should apply a less scented oil or lotion to moisturize the skin to prevent cracking as well as to sooth the skin. Patients should avoid staying out in the sun, and if they have to, they should consider using the sunscreen to prevent their skin from further damage from the sun rays. In addition, topical corticosteroids can also be used in cases of rash and oral antipruritic. If symptoms do not clear up, patients should see a dermatologist for prescription of a stronger cream or antibiotics.
Unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy, immunotherapy does not target all cells in the body. It works on specific tumor cells hence it is preferentially used than other types of therapies. However, some drugs have a powerful effect that they attack the healthy cells and organs. These cause inflammation of the lungs known as pneumonitis which causes shortness of breath as well as chest pain. It also causes inflamed eyes and poor bowel movement hence hindering the normal functioning of the body systems. Endocrine disorders also present and it is characterized by hormonal changes in the body. It presents with symptoms like fatigue, headache, mood changes, rapid heartbeats and hair loss. Some of these conditions are fatal while others are mild and treatment is given according to the severity. Doctors, therefore, prescribe corticosteroids depending on the seriousness of the disease. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that are prescribed to reduce inflammation of tissues and organs. Nevertheless, corticosteroids side effects should be monitored as they cause weight gain.
This is yet another syndrome that presents with so many symptoms, therefore, lacking a one-way treatment. Doctors treat one symptom at a time as it shows. Different therapies are prescribed. Not many drugs are taken due to these symptoms as most of them are managed using supportive measures. These symptoms include; chills, weakness, dizziness, fever nausea dry cough joint pain as well as muscle pain. Pain is controlled by taking over the counter drugs. Severe vomiting and diarrhea, however, needs close monitoring and a stronger medication. Stomach aches and nausea are managed at home whereby the doctor teaches the patients on how to handle them at home. For instance, in case of stomach ache, the doctor will advise one to take cold food that has less smell. For a patient who is vomiting, sips of ice water, juice and ginger prevent one from feeling nausea hence the patient cannot vomit anymore. These are among the measures that are taken to ensure that the patient is comfortable with the immunotherapy that he is receiving.
Management of the side effects associated with immunotherapy is vital as it increases the comfortability of the patient during treatment. It also overcomes treatment withdrawal due to nuisance side effects that can discourage the patients from using immunotherapy treatment.