Your side effects depend on your diagnosis and the type of treatments you receive. Ask your physician about side effects you may experience and how to manage them.

Side effects from head and neck surgery may include:

  • Temporary or permanent loss of your normal voice
  • Hearing loss
  • Impaired speech
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing, which may require that a tube be inserted into the stomach for feeding
  • Decreased thyroid function, which requires taking thyroid hormone medication
  • Lymphedema (swelling in an arm or leg caused by a lymphatic system blockage)
  • Shoulder stiffness if lymph nodes were removed
  • Swelling of the mouth and throat that makes it difficult to breathe, which may require a temporary tracheostomy (hole in the windpipe) to allow for easier breathing
  • Facial disfigurement, which may require reconstructive surgery to help with appearance and restoration of important functions

Side effects from radiation therapy may include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Short- or long-term pain or difficulty swallowing (speech and swallowing therapy can help relieve these symptoms)
  • Voice changes related to swelling and scarring
  • Change in sense of taste
  • Loss of appetite
  • Damage to the salivary glands causing dry mouth
  • Skin irritation or redness of the treated area
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Sore throat
  • Bone pain
  • Swelling
  • Hearing loss because of a buildup of the fluid in the middle ear, a buildup of earwax or scarring in the ear
  • Lymphedema (swelling in an arm or leg caused by a lymphatic system blockage)
  • Hypothyroidism (when the thyroid doesn’t create enough thyroid hormone)

Side effects from chemotherapy may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Risk of infection

Side effects from immunotherapy may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin reactions
  • Weight changes

Side effects from targeted therapy may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Liver problems
  • Issues with wound healing and blood clotting
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in your nails
  • Hair loss
  • Skin problems

There are many ways to help manage your side effects, so talk to your oncologist about what’s right for you.

Cancer and treatment can also have social, emotional and financial effects. Talk to your social worker or oncologist about resources like mental health counseling, financial counseling, support groups and more.