Effects and consequences of cancer treatments

Despite cancer continues to be one of the diseases with the highest incidence in the world, many resources are allocated to research on the disease and to develop new therapies.

Currently, there are different treatment routes, depending on the type of cancer and how advanced it is: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, hormonal therapy, stem cell transplant… In some cases, combinations of these treatments are applied to address the disease more efficiently.

Any of these treatment approaches can lead to the appearance of side effects in patients.

If you continue reading this article, you will discover:

  • What side effects can appear during cancer treatment
  • How to help improve associated patient discomfort

Side effects of cancer treatment

Side effects occur when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. However, not all patients experience all side effects: some people only experience some or even none.

The severity of the consequences also varies greatly from one individual to another, and the discomfort they cause must always be weighed against the need to destroy cancer cells.

Although each type of treatment has a different mode of action depending on the type of cancer, the organ it affects and the severity of the disease, the side effects are listed, in a general way, in the following list:

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and nerve problems
  • Hair loss
  • Skin and nail changes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Variations in weight
  • Fertility problems
  • Variations in sexual desire and function
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Problems in mouth, tongue, and throat
  • Nausea y vomiting
  • Appearence of infections

Skin changes

As indicated in the list above, the skin may show changes due to cancer treatment. The most common are redness, dryness, itching, peeling and the appearance of rashes. In some areas of the body, the skin color may darken or lighten.

It is also common for patients to develop sores or cracks in the skin, which implies a greater risk of infection, in addition to the discomfort that it entails.


The set of skin lesions that appears after exposure to this treatment is called radiodermatitis. A large percentage of patients present this type of temporary alterations in the skin of the treated area: redness, dryness, discoloration, itching or even the appearance of blisters or peeling.

Changes occur slowly during treatment and, although they tend to improve once it is finished, the skin needs special care throughout the process.


The chemotherapy mechanism of action is based on attacking rapidly growing cells, such as cancer cells. The problem is that they are not the only cell type with these characteristics, which is why they can damage other tissues such as the skin.

The probability of developing one type of skin problem or another is different for each drug, since some cause rashes, redness, itching and dry skin, while others darken the skin, nails or hair, or cause photosensitivity, increasing the risk of severe sunburn.

Peripheral neuropathy is one of the most common side effects in cancer patients. Its main symptoms are: numbness and pain in the extremities, difficulty moving the fingers, hypersensitivity to cold or heat, tingling, muscle weakness, itching…

Its prevalence varies depending on the chemotherapeutic agent administered, and it can affect up to 80% of patients treated with paclitaxel and/or docetaxel and up to 95% with oxyplatin.

Targeted therapy

These types of therapies act on characteristics present in cancer cells. However, they can also affect skin cells, as well as other cells in the body. Skin problems associated with targeted therapy are usually mild and dependent on the dose of medication, but one of the main side effects is a rash that resembles an acne breakout.

Targeted therapy may also cause tingling, burning, and increased sensitivity to heat in the treated patient’s hands and feet.


Immunotherapy uses the person’s own immune system to fight cancer. Healthy cells can also be affected: rashes, itching or blisters on the skin. Additionally, patients may experience hair loss in small areas or all over the body. In this case, side effects may develop several months after treatment.

How to improve the discomfort associated to side effects

In general, during cancer treatment, the skin is more sensitive and easily irritated, so skin care during this period involves keeping the skin clean, moisturized, and protecting it from irritation, injury, and infection.

It is recommended to use sunscreen continuously, treat the skin with products that prevent or improve dryness, and avoid the use of products with a lot of alcohol or perfumes that can further sensitize the skin.

At Prospera Biotech, we have developed Oncapsisens, a product that helps improve skin discomfort in cancer patients.

In addition, it is moisturizing and hypoallergenic, and achieved that 87% of patients in a study in which 4 different hospitals participated improved their dermatological quality of life index.

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Keywords: oncapsisens, cancer treatment, chemotherapy, cancer, skin, side effects


SEOM. Las cifras del cáncer en España 2022. 2022.

St. Jude Children Research Hospital. Cambios en la piel durante el tratamiento del cáncer. 2019.

Instituto Nacional del Cáncer. Cambios en la piel y las uñas durante el tratamiento del cáncer. 2019.

Sociedad Española de Oncología Médica. Toxicidad de los tratamientos oncológicos. 2019.

American Cancer Society. Efectos Secundarios de la quimioterapia. 2019.


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