Treatment can come along with a bunch of unpleasant side effects. If you’re taking Stivarga, here are some side effects you might experience:
Whew, sounds like a lot, right? Remember that you likely won’t experience all of these side effects — because everyone’s bodies are different.
If you ever feel like you can’t manage your side effects and symptoms, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor about pre-meds or complimentary meds to manage them. You can also ask for a referral to the palliative care specialist or team at your cancer center. It’s important to note that palliative care is not the same as hospice care. Palliative care helps patients manage symptoms, and it can be extremely helpful for many people.
Remember that it’s important to check in with your healthcare team before starting any supplements, complementary therapies or fasting regimens. These treatments might not be appropriate for everyone — and some may even interfere with chemotherapy.
This is an extremely common side effect. Nausea usually lasts for a few days to a week after infusion.
Do you feel a bit off your game? Treatment can cause a decrease in mental acuity, difficulty remembering certain things, and trouble finishing tasks. You might struggle with concentrating, or learning new skills. Usually, things get better after the end of treatment, but many changes can be permanent.
Treatment can change the way your body perceives tastes and smells, causing aversions to things you usually don’t mind! These changes are temporary, and will likely go away after treatment has finished or if you have a break.
Feeling tired is one of the most common side effects for people going through cancer treatment. It’s important to remember that your body is going through a lot.
You might feel anxious about your cancer diagnosis, or worried about your treatment plan. Many patients feel stressed before infusions. Managing anxiety is an important task, but it can be difficult!
When you first learned about starting cancer treatment, you might have been worried about losing your beautiful hair! However, colorectal cancer patients often experience hair thinning, not complete hair loss.
Check out this link from the National Cancer Institute.
Treatment can cause painful mouth sores. If you develop them, discuss your symptoms with your oncologist immediately. A dose reduction can help.
Stivarga can cause loose bowels. You may experience this at any point during your treatment, even up to 10 days post infusion.
Stivarga can cause soreness or stiffness in your bones and joints. Talk to your oncologist if you experience these symptoms.
This drug can cause high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Your healthcare team will monitor your blood pressure carefully. If it gets too high, they may consider reducing your dose, or prescribing medication to lower it. If this becomes an issue for you, it might be a good idea to purchase a machine to monitor blood pressure at home.
White blood cells (WBC) are used to fight off infections. Low white blood cell counts can increase your risk of infection, and make you feel short of breath.
Your healthcare team will monitor your WBC counts to make sure they don’t get too low. If they are, your treatment might be delayed by a week or two, to give your body a chance to recover. Treatment delays should be avoided whenever possible, but they are common.
Talk to your team about any concerns you have, but know that an occasional treatment delay should not affect your long-term prognosis or the overall effectiveness of your treatment.
Treatment will likely decrease your red blood cell (RBC) counts. This can cause fatigue and shortness of breath. Your healthcare team will monitor your RBC levels to make sure they don’t go too low. Many patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer may already have anemia due to iron deficiency from tumors in the gastrointestinal tract bleeding. Treatment can worsen preexisting anemia.
This syndrome causes redness, swelling and pain on the palms and soles of the feet and painful cracks on your fingers and toes.
Cancer treatment can cause a loss of libido. Women may experience a drop in estrogen production, which leads to early symptoms of menopause. This can cause vaginal dryness, and loss of a period. These symptoms may resolve after you stop treatment, however, they may become permanent. In men, treatment can reduce testosterone production, however it should return to normal after treatment has finished.
Treatment can also affect fertility. Some drugs have a higher risk of affecting fertility than others, depending on your age and other factors. The risk of permanent infertility is even higher if you’re treated with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvis. Speak with your oncologist before starting treatment about any concerns you might have.
It’s a good idea to keep a journal or notes about your side effects, so you can discuss them with your oncologist at your next appointment. This can help you advocate for changes to your pre-meds and home meds as necessary. Be sure to discuss possible side effects with your oncologist, so you know what’s normal and what might be concerning. Before your first treatment, you should have been given a 24-hour phone number to call in case of severe symptoms.
Some of these symptoms include:
I have been on Stivarga as part of a combination therapy. So, my Stivarga dose has been lower than what it would be if I was taking it on its own. I take 80mg daily for two weeks and then have a week off.
I think the lower dose has helped keep my side effects very minimal. I have had fatigue, diarrhea, and some mild heel pain when I am on the pills. But, all of that has been quite manageable and less than I have experienced on other treatments.
My tumors have remained mainly stable with a bit of shrinkage on this combination. I call that a win!
I’d say the most challenging part of Stivarga has been that you need to take it with a low fat/low calorie meal. I take it in the morning and I love breakfast foods – which unfortunately are not often low fat/low calorie. So, my morning meals have become much more basic and I enjoy breakfast for dinner much more often which my family actually loves too.
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Last updated: February 26, 2023