What Are The Side Effects Of Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that utilizes particular components and characteristics of a patient’s immune system to treat diseases, including cancer. The human immune system is a group of specialized cells, organs, and substances that protect the body from harmful or foreign organisms and substances. In the last several decades, researchers have found the immune system can be manipulated in certain ways for the purpose of treating disease. There are several mechanisms used to accomplish this. Medications can stimulate the individual’s immune system to work harder and smarter to find and attack cancerous cells more effectively. Some immunotherapy medications actually train the patient’s immune system to detect and attack specific cancer cells. Other immunotherapy medications augment the immune system with man-made versions of immune substances. While immunotherapy has shown to be useful and effective for the treatment of some cancers, it does come with its own set of side effects that should be considered.

Nausea And Vomiting

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A common side effect of immunotherapy is nausea and vomiting. Nausea is a sensation best described as feeling sick to the stomach, and it may or may not result in actual vomiting. Nausea and vomiting occur when certain nerves in the stomach, esophagus, or intestines become irritated and trigger a related part of the brain. When nausea and vomiting occur minutes to several hours following treatment and resolve within twenty-four hours, it is called acute nausea and vomiting. When this side effect occurs over twenty-four hours following treatment and lasts for six to seven days, it is called delayed nausea and vomiting. When a patient undergoes the first few treatments of immunotherapy and expects to be sick, they can experience treatment anxiety. This anxiety usually occurs before treatment sessions and may result in anticipatory nausea and vomiting. In some cases, a patient may experience nausea and vomiting due to the waste products produced by the effects of the treatment on the cancer cells themselves. Medications are available to help alleviate nausea and vomiting a patient may experience as a result of immunotherapy.

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