The really amazing thing about immunotherapy is that it's proven to be effective in treating a wide variety of different cancer types. It has been shown to transform the outcomes of patients with advanced kidney cancer, bladder cancer, cancers of the lung, some forms of skin cancer and some cancers of the immune system such as lymphoma. The list of cancers which can be treated effectively with immunotherapy keeps on growing on a year-by-year basis.
As with any treatment procedure, one of the first things that a patient will question is whether there are any side effects to the medication, and if so, what? Oxford medical oncologist Dr Mark Tuthill is an expert in immunotherapy in cancer treatment. Here he explains more.
Are there any side effects?
The side effects of immunotherapy very much depend on the type of treatment you're being given. The commonest side effects are:
- Joint aches
Even though there are a wide variety of other side effects that could affect you, one of the most important things to remember about immunotherapy is that it's a natural treatment.
It's your own immune system attacking the illness. What we've clearly seen in treatment is rather than patients becoming more unwell, often their quality of life and general well-being goes up, the longer the time they spend on immunotherapy. This has been one of the most rewarding things to see in my job.
How can the side effects be managed?
Many of the side effects are treated with straightforward medications and resolve within a quick duration. Although there are a lot of potential side effects, most are manageable and it's certainly a lot better for patients than having, say, chemotherapy treatment.
How can I have immunotherapy?
If you want to know whether your cancer could be treated with immunotherapy, speak to your medical team who will be able to advise you. We and others are conducting lots of research into immunotherapy treatments to try and keep expanding the numbers of patients that can benefit from the treatment. It's an exciting time. There's lots of new research coming out and lots of new treatments are becoming available.
If in doubt, speak to your doctor or healthcare team and they'll be able to advise you about whether immunotherapy treatment would be suitable for you.
Do not hesitate to book an appointment with Dr Tuthill if you would like to discuss your cancer treatment options.