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Bowel cancer treatment and side effects



Four days ago, my dad had his first round of chemotherapy (oxaliplatin infusion and capecitabine tablets) plus Avastin infusion.

Along with some other medicines, he was given dexametasone tablets 2mg, four tablets every morning for three days. Ever since he got home from hospital he's been unable to sleep at night, only snatching an hour or so here and there. In addition to this, he's had gastro-oesophageal reflux which is making him retch and occasionally vomit, and his voice has gone husky.

My hunch is this is being caused by the dexametasone. As he took his last dose this morning, I'm hoping these side effects will ease.

Has anyone else had a similar experience, and if so, did you find anything which helped?


I had real trouble with Dexametazone too..... that is the steroid!? I had it with my infusion and stayed awake for 24 hours on each occasion affgter the second one i stopped taking it at all..... i was sick slighly but i don't know whether this was due to that medication. I wasn't sick without taking it and felt fine.... well as fine as you can be on Chemo.


Wow! That was a quick response, Hazel, thank you!

Yes, dexametasone is the steroid. I've been wondering how essential this treatment is, as it seems to have caused more distress than the chemotherapy itself. I shall ask the oncologist at our next appointment in 8 days' time, but given that he's a man of few words, I thought I'd ask the wonderful folk of this forum first :)


Yes, I had dexametasone too, made me hyper too and up all hours, also made me ravenously hungry, getting up in the night for toast and marmite! My oncologist lowered the dose to a more manageable level, your dad will be asked about the effects all the different chemo's and steroids had on him at his assessment before his next chemo and drugs will be adjusted accordingly.

best wishes, Alison


I was wide awake on the steroids and hungry I remember having cornflakes in the night! The oxaliplatin can affect the throat and I would mention it to the nurses before anymore is given, this is just my experience and sure the nurses will reply



Wow, what a fantastic response to the question on Dexamethasone from you all.

Yes it is a steroid and it's purpose as part of the chemotherapy treatment schedule is to try and reduce the risk of side effects associated with the chemotherapy, so even though it makes you feel hungry, and can affect your ability to sleep and to concentrate for a few days while you are taking it, it does actually help to avoid other symptoms which would be equally unpleasant, and aid the effectiveness of the treatment being given to kill the cancer cells. If you are taking steroids, it is really important to take them as prescribed and not suddenly miss a dose as this can also cause acute health problems.

If the reaction and side effects are too much, then a lowering of the "standard" presribed dose is possible, balancing individual needs with the clinical ones in a much more individual way, so definately have the conversation with the specialist team at the next appointment.

Best wishes, Lilian


Thank you, everyone, for your replies to this topic. Funnily enough, I don't think Dad's hoarse voice was caused by the oxaliplatin; I suspect it was acid reflux burning his throat. We also now suspect it was the acid reflux which caused his insomnia; whenever he lay down in bed he began coughing, tasting whatever food he'd eaten earlier, and it totally disrupted his sleep.

He has now had his dose of lansoprazole (a stomach-acid suppressant) increased to 30mg twice daily, and now he's been off the dexametasone for three days, his acid reflux has settled and, mercifully, he's sleeping again.

Dad didn't have any other throat symptoms, or an increased appetite, which some of you mentioned in your posts.

However, in other news, posted here: http://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/forum/index.php/topic,1290.0.html his nausea and vomiting have been getting progressively worse, and from tomorrow morning he's going back on the dexametasone... It'll be interesting to see what happens this time!

We see the oncologist in six days' time, so I shall be raising all of these issues with him. Fingers crossed that the next round of chemo is better tolerated!


Glad you got most of these things answered by Lil. The nurses here really do go 'over and beyond', which is so comforting especially when you can't get hold of anyone at your own hospital. When I was first diagnosed I was very hesitant about ringing as I 'didn't want to bother them' a phrase instilled in me by my mother, but I have learnt that a question answered is one less thing to worry about and really reduces the stress/anxiety levels!

best wishes, Alison


Had had my first round of chemo on thurs. Oxyplatin and now capecitabine. The steroids have been awful. Iam only on 2mg. The first night after the chemo I slept ok must have been exhausted because of the whole thing. Last night I had restless leg syndrome and was awake almost every hour all night. I went to the NEC in Birmingham today for the cat show as it is my birthday weekend and wasnt going to let having the chemo stop me. I had a small sleep in the car on the way home and went to sleep at about 9 as was knackered. i have done too much walking today my stomach muscles telling me so and woke up at 11 unable to sleep because of this damned steroid. I only have 1 left to take tomorrow. When I next go should I ask about lowering the dose? I don't think I can put up with no sleep for 3 nights every 3 weeks !!!!!!!


Hello Iwillbeatthis

I've been having Oxy and 5 FU. I talked to my chemo nurses and doctor about some of the side effects I was getting and we decided to reduce the tablet steroids a bit - only problem was my nausea increased tenfold, so after a couple more treatments I went back up to the full dose of steroid and am wondering if they'll give me an extra days worth when I start my next block of treatment in January! I personally can tolerate some lack of sleep more than I can feeling and being constantly sick. (Like your father Lindsey I'm now on 30mg daily of lansoprazole - it really helps)

As is often said on this site everyone is different and reacts differently so that doesn't mean the same thing will happen to you; you need to talk it through with your nurses/doctor. I often feel that going through chemo is like trying to choose things that will be the lesser evil - it's probably going to be unpleasant in one way or another, you just might get to choose which 'unpleasant' bit you can tolerate the most. The good thing is it's killing the beastie, and that's what I concentrate on in the unpleasant times.

Best wishes everyone


Good luck to all of you taking the Oxalyplatin and Capcitabine, been four years since i was on it and i still remember how it felt, but it did the job for me and held my lung tumours for three years so the benefits really do outweigh the side effects in the long run.
Onwards and upwards!


I always have a tussle with my oncologist about the dexy cos I cannot bear the weight gain I get with it .. and he really seems to like the idea of buidling me up! I tell him I built enough! ;D

I gain lots of weight with it also cos of doing lots less throught exhaustion .. I suppose ... I dont think I really suffer with side-effects from it, though ... as described here ... and when my nausea got really bad on the second set of chemo I was persuaded to take more of it ... tho'I am not 100% sure it really helped !


I am an RN with my masters and battling colon cancer as well and just started the same regiment that your father was on. From day one I refused the steroid.. For all the side effects mentioned, but mainly because it raises the sugar. Sugar is known to feed cancer. Think about what makes a cance cell light up on a PET scan. They inject sugar and 30 minutes later the cancer cells light up because the cancer loves sugar. I also was not happy about oxaliplatin running with dextrose but since it does not run with saline we don't have a choice. You can always politely refuse. This is my 2nd day post taking xeloda three times a day at 500 mg each and doing good. I tried to fast yesterday, but that didnt go well I was too nauseated by the second dose. I am only on the zofran for nausea. Never go on steroids unless it is the only thing that is going to save your life. Try juicing, that will give his body more nutrients and uses very little energy for digestion which in turn will increase his energy. No sugar except holidays or his birthday an NO processed foods. I hope that helps. There are plenty websites for juicing or email me at oiloscity@gmail.com and I will send you mine...


I guess it is also about how you manage without steroids, if the sickness and side effects cause too many problems then taking them maybe the best option. Personally I stopped taking them as I was wide awake for 24 hours and I managed perfectly well without them.
Welcome to the forum Sandra sorry to hear you are a member of our club but I hope that you find the forum helpful and a support.


Hi Sandra,

It might explain why I have had to have a kidney function test and am having a fasting glucose test. My dexametasone were increased after liver enlargement and doubled on last chemo, I was really ill for a week and wondered what happened. I have printed off the info and will question things with my onco next week when I see him

Thanks very much for the information.

Best wishes


Bantam Paul

Hi, I also suffered with insomnia. when i mentioned it to my Oncologist he prescribed me an anti sickness tablet which also makes you sleepy. sadly I am at work so don't know the name. Its only a qtr tablet I take but it works a treat.
I am sure if you tell your Onc he / she will prescribe you something to help. all the Best Bantam Paul