When to Call – Chemotherapy Side Effects
While you are undergoing chemotherapy you may experience side effects. Some of these are expected and can be easily managed at home if treated early. Your doctor or nurse will give you more information about what you might expect. This is a reminder and a guide to help keep side effects under control and to let you know when to call your doctor or nurse. We encourage you to call us with any questions.
Call Your Nurse or Doctor if You Have:
- Temperature greater than 100ºF. If you have any fever and chills notify your physician immediately. If you are unable to contact your physician, go to the emergency room.
- Sore mouth. New sores, patches, swollen tongue, or bleeding gums
- Sore throat. Dry, burning, scratchy or "swollen" throat
- Cough. New or persistent, productive cough
- Changes in bladder function. Increased frequency or urgency to go, burning on urination or blood in the urine
- Changes in gastrointestinal function. Heartburn, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea that lasts longer than two or three days, or blood in stools.
- Skin changes. Redness, tenderness, swelling, or discharge from sores, intravenous sites, lab draw sites, port-a-cath, or Hickman catheter sites. Call if you experience a rash, itching of the skin, or an increase in pain or bruising.
- Numbness, tingling. Call if you feel pain, tingling, or numbness in your hands, legs, or feet. Also call if pain interferes with walking, or your normal daily activities.
- Fatigue. If you are so tired that you cannot perform normal functions, or are feeling confused, call the doctor.
- Chest pain, shortness of breath. Call if you experience muscle cramping, shortness of breath, jaw or rib pain, palpitations or faintness. Call 911 if you have chest pain and cannot immediately reach your doctor.
- Dehydration or cannot eat. Call if you have not eaten solid food in 24-48 hours, or if your total fluid intake is less than 1-2 quarts per day. Dizziness, dry mouth, constipation, thirst and weakness are symptoms of dehydration and require IMMEDIATE nursing evaluation and intravenous fluids.
- Pain. Call any time to report new or severe pain or if your pain medications do not control pain within 48 hours of starting them.
- Pre-Chemo protocols. Some chemotherapy protocols require you to take medicines at home before you come in for your chemotherapy. If you are receiving Taxol, remember to take Decadron (20 mg) at 10 pm the night before your treatment and 6am the morning of your treatment. Please speak with your doctor if you have any questions about this.
- Prescription refills. Remember to call for refill prescriptions 2-3 days before your medication runs out. Make sure you always clearly understand all instructions before taking your medications.
- Nausea, vomiting. If you have nausea or vomiting that lasts for 24-48 hours after you have received medication, please call your doctor.
Ambulatory Chemotherapy Pumps
If you are receiving chemotherapy over a 24-hour period via a CADD pump:
- Do not shower.
- Avoid strenuous exercise unless approved by your doctor.
- Remember to call the chemotherapy treatment area each day to report pump volume or if pump alarm goes off (Evenings/weekends/holidays, call the Medical Oncology Unit at 203-863-3557).
- Follow the troubleshooting chart in your care guide for further pump instructions.
- Please call the nurse if you have any questions.
Make sure your doctor and nurse know of any allergies you have, or any new drug sensitivities you develop. Call if you have any of these symptoms:
- Swelling in hands, feet, or face
- "Flushed" appearance
- Itchy, watery eyes and sinuses
- Shortness of breath
Call immediately if you suspect you are pregnant.
Important Phone Numbers:
Chemotherapy treatment areas at:
- Bendheim Cancer Center, 77 Lafayette Place: 203-863-3733
- Bendheim Cancer Center at 15 Valley Drive: 203-869-2111
- Medical Oncology (Inpatient Unit): 203-863-3557
Chemotherapy Treatment Areas: 8 am - 4 pm, Monday – Friday
After hours/weekends/holidays: Call the Medical Oncology Unit at 203-863-3557 with any problems or questions.