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While taking any medication, you may experience changes in your behavior or the way you feel. These reactions are known as "adverse reactions" or "side effects."

Adverse reactions should be reported to the doctor who prescribed the drug or who is administering a treatment,  or to your primary care doctor.

  • The drug or treatment or dosage may need to be adjusted. If a side effect cannot be eliminated by adjusting a treatment or dosage, it can generally be treated by another drug or other treatment.
  • Ask your doctor:
    • If the side effects are normal.
    • If a decrease in dosage would help. An overdose may be the cause of your symptoms. To learn more, see Overdose.
    • Would you be able to tolerate the drug better if you took it in a different form. To learn more, see Compounding.
    • Whether there is a clinical trial investigating how to reduce toxicity and side effects.

It is not advisable to stop taking a drug without consulting your doctor unless it's an emergency. In some cases, stopping taking a drug may cause even worse problems. Your doctor can determine whether the drug in question is causing the symptoms, and can take the appropriate action such as decreasing dosage or substituting another drug.

It may also be helpful to discuss side effects with your pharmacist. She or he may have ideas your doctor didn't think of. A pharmacist's advice is free.

Common side effects to watch for include (with links to information about what to do about them):

Your doctor may also tell you about other side effects to watch for because of your health condition, treatment or drugs. For example, with chemotherapy, hair loss is a common side effect.

Keep Track Of Side Effects

It will help the physician/pharmacist if you keep track of side effects, such as in a Symptoms Diary. The chart has the unique feature of converting your input into graph form so your doctor can quickly see the complete picture without wasting unnecessary precious time during your all-too-short visit.

  • Think about the words that best describe the adverse reaction.
    • The less subjective the words are, the better. For example, if you are experiencing a pain, is it sharp? Dull? Tingling? Etc.
    • If only subjective descriptions fit, try to quantify the symptom. For example, again referring to pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most painful, where is your pain?
  • When does the reaction occur? For example, at night, or when you eat.
  • Keep track of the date when the adverse reaction started.
  • Did the reaction stop for a period of time, then start again? If so, when?
  • Recall when you started taking each of the drugs you're taking. Look at your List of Medications.
  • Take a list of all your drugs with you to the doctor, preferably in the form in the List of Medications.

Chemotherapy and Radiation


Chemotherapy, radiation and other drug treatments may cause hair loss (alopecia), or a change in the texture or color of your hair. The extent of hair loss depends upon your specific treatment and your individual response to the treatment. There are tips for caring for your hair during treatment. There are also hair replacement alternatives including wigs, going bald, hats and caps, scarves and turbans.

Chemo Brain

Chemo brain is a mental fog that can occur to anyone during chemotherapy treatment and can continue after treatment is discontinued.

The exact cause is unknown so there is no treatment. However, the symptoms can be treated.

There are also techniques for coping with chemo brain.

If you need help coping with chemo brain, a neuropsychologist specializes in helping people cope with memory difficulties.

Chemo brain may affect your ability to do your work. If so, there are steps to take and legal protections to consider.

To Learn More

More Information

Hair Loss Wigs Chemo Brain