• Believing that everything is cancer related as a side effect?

    Asked by nancyjac on Monday, December 3, 2012

    Believing that everything is cancer related as a side effect?

    This is one thing I have never seen as a possible side effect of cancer treatment, but seems to me it is very common. I think because cancer is a life altering disease, survivors tend to view most every symptom as a side effect of treatment or a sign of recurrence. Everything from a common cold to broken bones get blamed on cancer or its treatments when sometimes they are not related at all. I wonder how many cancer survivors ignore other medical conditions that should be diagnosed, treated, or managed because they just blow it off as a side effect or treatment or don't seek treatment because they are afraid it signals cancer recurrence. What are your thoughts/experiences?

    26 Answers from the Community

    26 answers
    • ticklingcancer's Avatar

      Every pain I feel within my chest and abdomen I sometimes worry is cancer related. I plan to mention it to my Oncologist when I see him next month. This month's follow up is just a chest xray and for that, I won't see him.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Nancebeth's Avatar

      Actually I am going through this right now. I finished chemo in August, got my NED in September. I stopped the Tamoxifen last month and for the past two weeks I have felt "off." Almost like when I was on chemo. Exhausted, nausea, stomach cramps, bloody nose, etc. I called my onc and the nurse said I am too far out from chemo for it to be related and to see my PCP. My PS (an old friend from elementary) said it may be mental, a kind of PTSD type of thing. I still think every ache and pain might be cancer coming back. But since the chemo did cause some permanent changes to my body, I don't feel foolish for thinking that. I know at some point those fears will subside, but for now, they are there and I will go see my PCP and see if it's something or just a virus or all in my head from stress.

      almost 4 years ago
    • ticklingcancer's Avatar

      What worries me sometimes is that the "discomfort" I feel in the area where my tumors were.

      almost 4 years ago
    • JudyS's Avatar

      Great question! I agree that survivor's are probably prone to thinking symptoms are related to cancer treatment or we worry that an ache or a pain may mean the cancer has returned. I think it is very important to discuss all of the ongoing aches and pains with your doctor if you think it has even a slight possibility of being a return of the cancer or an effect of chemo - you are right, we cannot discount things because we are afraid we might be over thinking an ache. My doctor ordered a bone scan because I was concerned about pain and it put my mind at rest and his.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Harry's Avatar

      I just had the opposite happen. I had an abcessed tooth and a swollen jaw. The swolling in the jaw is centered on the abcessed tooth. So, of course, they are unrelated! The biopsy (the oral surgeon finally took one when nothing seemed to help) came back positive for B-cell Lymphoma.

      almost 4 years ago
    • SueRae1's Avatar

      I've become a "hypochondriac" - I call or see my doctors for every little thing I think is wrong. Thank goodness almost all of them have been nothing serious. But with two active cancers I'd rather be safe then sorry.

      almost 4 years ago
    • karen1956's Avatar

      I think so often we think, not so much side effect but "oh no" cancer is back!!! When I was getting frequent won't stop headaches my pcp ordered a MRI and I was just thinking sinus...when the results came back I realized that she was looking at brain mets!!!! I was just at the dentist for a cleaning and I have something funky going on with the gum and she said if it doesn't go away in a couple weeks, she wants to biopsy it!!!! She says its better to know.....Well, maybe I want to keep my head in the sand!!! Geeze, does everything have to be cancer!!! I'm trying not to think about it as it scares the heck out of me what could be...so I'm thinking its not big deal....But I do blame many of the isses I have on cancer and its Tx....never had these problems prior to Dx....but it is what it is!!!

      almost 4 years ago
    • GregP_WN's Avatar

      In my 18 year "clean" spell between dx 2 and 3, I went to the Doctor twice with pains, both came back being nothing. Or at least nothing they could find. I have found that I get a whole lot of this answer: "Yes, that sort of thing will happen"

      Makes no difference what it is, "Doc, when I swallow, sometimes I choke and almost pass out" yep same answer.

      I had pain in my underarm, cat scan couldn't find anything, blood tests normal, answer was Well you've been through a lot, that sort of thing will happen.

      So while I have my "spidy senses" turned on, the Doctors tend to shoot down most of my pains. So anymore I tend to just shut up and take it, chalk it up to my Pain Of The Day.

      almost 4 years ago
    • JennyMiller's Avatar

      Nancyjac -- great topic!! -- I also will pass off many aches and symptoms as "side effects". Usually they are a random "short hit" sort of thing. If something were to persist, I would definitely consult my oncologist. At this stage in my journey, "cancer recurrence" is a real fear for me. A pain in my stomach, a cramp in my side, a sore in my mouth, an ear ache, fatigue --- all and any of these set off an alarm within me that automatically produces those butterflies in my tummy that I had back in the beginning. I can't seem to help it -- and only my friends here on this site can truly understand. I just hope that the passing of time leaves me less paranoid.Thanks nancyjac for your very helpful posts-------

      almost 4 years ago
    • lynn1950's Avatar

      My experience is a little different. One of the best things that happened to me post treatment was I broke a toe. Experiencing the healing process (it took six weeks) helped me to see that my body could recover and take care of itself. So being sick or injured and then getting better became part of the emotional healing process for me.

      That said, I am vigilant regarding my health and do tend to ascribe joint aches and pains to arimidex, not arthritis. Pains in the breast area were worrisome, but turned out to be the results of scar tissue. I've had that checked out. I definitely never blow anything off.

      almost 4 years ago
    • invokethestars' Avatar

      There are many signs of cancer and side effects of those treatments. As cancer patients, we must familiarize ourselves with all of these things and be awa them. This way we can differentiate between them. We should not be scared to discuss these with our doctors either. There are ways of controlling and maintaining them. It's also vital for early detection if you do have a reoccurrence, because catching cancer in its early stages makes it easier to treat.

      almost 4 years ago
    • invokethestars' Avatar

      Be aware of* oops...

      Typing on my phone. Still getting used to internet/typing on my phone.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Crash's Avatar

      Your question reminds me of an old movie quote, I think it was James Coburn who said, "Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not after you..."

      I have been fortunate to have a really good doctor. She has diagnosed me with "Megacytosis" , a condition of having unusually large red blood cells, which was caused by my chemo. I was also breaking bones, which can be a result of chemo, and in my case bike wrecks. Bleomycin has restricted my lung capacity. That made it more difficult to complete my first 100 miles in a day bicycle ride. It took me 9 and a half hours, but I did it.

      Being paranoid also tipped me off 20 years ago when I was having trouble swallowing. It turned out that a "destroyed" tumor changed into a teratoma and attached itself to my esophagus and aorta.

      It's quite a tightrope we walk between being a hypochondriac and an observant human. I should bring my doctor a gift for being willing to walk with me down this path.

      almost 4 years ago
    • fastdog's Avatar

      Oh, yes! Having had a "bunch of" organs removed from my abdomen, every time there is the least discomfort there, I think maybe it's a recurrence. It usually goes away or moves somewhere else. I haven't had chemo since last April, so I don't ascribe things to that, although I know it can stay with you a long time. I have known people who have had limbs amputated, and they talk about phantom pain or itching in a hand that they no longer have. I wonder if we don't have a touch of that, also? I don't have a spleen, or an appendix or ovaries or much of anything else in there, but I wonder about that............phantom pain? Or too much time on my hands? hmmmmmmmmmmm.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Schlegel's Avatar

      Severlal years ago I was really fatigued for about two months. Since fatigue was a major symptom just before diagnosis, I was sure the lymphoma was back. When I finally had my oncology appointment, she diagnosed an upper respiratory infection. After I got on antibiotics, I was fine.

      almost 4 years ago
    • GregA0406's Avatar

      With most every ache and pain in my chest or abdomen area, I wonder if it's the cancer. I always mention these to my oncology nurse, but they all eventually go away. On the other hand, several months ago I was passing a kidney stone. Not my first stone so I knew what was going on and I told them so when we went to ER. But, the ER docs insisted on x-rays (which won't show a kidney stone) because of my cancer history. The x-ray showed nothing and I was exposed to unnecessary radiation. Oh, and I passed a kidney stone.

      almost 4 years ago
    • geekling's Avatar

      I think you are, perhaps unknowingly, making light of a very serious subject.

      Cancer drugs are poison. The intent is to try to kill you in the hope that the cancer will expire some time prior to you. Radiation is lethal. The same theory applies.

      I have had the flu only twice in my life. Both times were in the fall and winter after cancer and after the only flu shot I have ever taken. A decade after treatment, my teeth began to rot. It is because of the dry mouth side effect of the radiation. The emotional trauma is still with me, hopefully lifting slightly every day.

      The drugs and the burning and the after effects stay with a person long after the radiation has stopped and the initial poison drugs called chemotherapy have left your system. Amongst their long term effects are a decrease in saliva, a decrease in the effectiveness of the lymph nodes, and a decrease in an ability to actually absorb nutritients (which affects the strength of the skeletal system and the immune system). Doctors are not trained to help their patients be proactive in regaining their health. It is your choice to go to the gym or to learn and initiate dietary changes and to seek spiritual councelling and/or psychological guidance to deal with stresses or not. You rarely, if ever, will receive any prescriptions for such things.

      Just because you think you ought to be so over it doesn't actually mean that you are. I have not had and do not expect any return of cancer or any new cancer. I still, however, cope with the side effects of conventional therapies. Believe it or not, so do and will you.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Clyde's Avatar

      I think its perfectly normal. Especially at first. My "aha" moment for over thinking everything was when I freaked out over a pounding headache one morning, something I rarely suffer (I'm also not a morning person). Until I remembered I had been drinking the night before, didn't drink any water before bed and hadn't had my morning coffee.

      My first thought is to jump to cancer every time I feel something that I don't think is right. But I started writing them down and then coming back to see if they still bother me a day or so later. So far the only thing to take into my ONC appointment this Friday is for him to check the scar on my back where the original tumor was removed and thats more to put my mind at ease than because I expect anything. That and answering any questions he has honestly.

      almost 4 years ago
    • booboo's Avatar

      For a long time I worried about cancer recurring, but I didn't really think about any other health problems because my fears were focused on cancer and the long-term aftereffects of chemo and radiation. Then my annual CT scans revealed liver damage that turned out to be Hepatitis C. I was so surprised, I'm not sure why but I guess I had believed that cancer was the only bad thing that could happen to me.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Lillylung's Avatar

      I have my 4th post treatment CT scan this month and am going through scanxiety. All have been clear so far but I still worry about any and all aches and pains. Hangnails become cancer. I have had more side effects from treatment than I anticipated. Still have issues with fatigue, pains in joints and feet and chemo-brain is alive and well in my cranium! Thank god for the support group I go to. We can laugh at ourselves, we have all felt the same things.
      I did ignore other medical issues for about the first 6 months after treatment. My Oncologist finally told me I needed to take of any other medical issues with my primary care or referral Doctor. I told her since I was going to die what difference did it make if I didn't address any of these issues. She said "You're going to live and you need to take care of yourself and any medical issues you ave been ignoring" Good advice from a good Doctor.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Onoi11's Avatar

      Good question. I'm aware that since my cancer diagnosis and treatment, my medical issues seem to first pass through a mental cancer filter. Didn't help that a surgeon told me I could expect a recurrence after 18-months, on average, post surgery. I suppose it's better to face reality, yet it can be daunting and depressing. Maybe here in our Western culture, we have difficulties accepting the grace inherent in our passing as much as in our arriving.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Nomadicme's Avatar

      Whenever I feel just about anything, I first think of how it relates to cancer. When my knees hurt after a long hike, I thought..it's the hike BUT could it be bone mets? I had a pain in my neck, probably from sitting funny, I felt my neck thought I felt something and of course thought lymph nodes with cancer (I'm not even sure if that's remotely relevant anatomically).
      The biggest scare was almost right after I was done with chemo. I was eating very healthy and lost some weight because of that. However, I panicked as I had always had a very hard time losing weight, so I thought I had cancer metastasis. I emailed my onc, he told me I needed to lose more weight lol.
      My sane thoughts on this are - any condition that's abnormal should be addressed, because you never know. However, try not to worry about everything, as you went through all that treatment to live life, not to live in fear.

      almost 4 years ago
    • mcowett's Avatar

      Interesting. . . In the middle of my chemotherapy I got a migraine headache, ran to my oncologist and was really pounding him to tell me that the migraine was triggered by the chemo, and at the same time to tell me if this was going to happen during every chemo session. He just looked at me and very matter of fact asked how often I get migraines, I told him about 1x a year. He said well maybe this is just that one time; I don't know. . . ( I really liked the fact he said "I don't know" - I love my Oncologist). Sure enough it was the one time. I haven't had another one since.
      I would suppose this phenomenon happens in both directions.

      almost 4 years ago
    • tombo's Avatar

      i am just the opposite,,i have EVERYTHING checked anytime i feel that somthing may be wrong,,and dont always think its a side effect,,i can certainly see your point though

      almost 4 years ago
    • tombo's Avatar

      i love reading this stuff,, i feel so less crazy,,sooo many people expieriencing the same issues,,this helps me big time,,,mentally

      almost 4 years ago
    • carolchristao's Avatar

      Well, I'm just beginning chemo now, but I think I will be like this after all has passed. For the rest of my life there will be this fear.
      My grandfather had heart problems for all his life. All of our concerns about his health were related to his heart. After he died, the doctor asked my mother why my grandpa never treated his liver cancer. We never knew he had anything but heart problems! I think it's close to what you are mentioning here.

      almost 4 years ago

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