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Immunotherapy side effects and advice

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that works differently than other traditional cancer therapies. The goal of immunotherapy is to boost our immune system by harnessing its ability to recognize and attack external, harmful agents in the body, such as cancer. Immunotherapy thus aims to enhance the response of the cells involved in our body’s defense.

This type of therapy does not have an immediate effect, and the side effects fall into two types:

  • Those that appear immediately after administration;
  • those that appear a few weeks after the start of treatment (due to the increase in the body’s defense mechanisms).

How does immunotherapy work?

Immunotherapy uses drugs to activate patients’ immune systems by stimulating them to attack cancerous and harmful cells in the body. In recent years, this treatment has shown positive results in patients:

  • tumor reduction;
  • Increased survival compared with traditional therapies;
  • immunological memory, even after treatment discontinuation, the immune system is able to recognize and attack relapsing cancer cells.

Immunotherapy short- and long-term side effects

We had already told you about the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Even in the case of immunotherapy, side effects vary from patient to patient. Some of the most common ones are:

In the short term

  • Skin irritation, erythema, itching and dryness of the skin, vitiligo;
  • fever and chills;
  • nausea and diarrhea;
  • drops in pressure;
  • drowsiness;
  • allergic reactions.

In the long run:

  • Dermatitis and rashes;
  • diarrhea;
  • Reduction in white blood cells (this side effect requires antibiotic therapy to prevent infection);
  • Reduced platelet production;
  • Muscle and joint pain;
  • Thyroid, adrenal gland, pituitary gland problems;
  • diabetes.
  • These side effects do not arise in all cases when a patient undergoes immunological therapies. In case of symptoms, it is always good practice to consult your oncologist.