Skip to content

My Colorectal Cancer Treatment Side Effects

My Colorectal Cancer Treatment Side Effects is an online tool designed to provide patients and their caregivers with information about colorectal cancer treatment side effects, as well as potential prevention strategies and remedies.


Treatment of your colorectal cancer with drug therapies (often called systemic treatments) such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy may result in side effects. Side effects often occur because the treatment that is working to destroy colorectal cancer cells can also affect healthy tissues. For example, chemotherapy works by destroying cells that are rapidly dividing. Cells that divide rapidly include not only cancer cells, but also bone marrow cells, hair cells, and the cells lining the mouth and gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Treatment-related side effects may be minor, such as mild abdominal discomfort, or may be difficult to manage, such as persistent nausea and vomiting or severe skin rash. Occasionally, side effects can be very serious, even life threatening. However, deaths due to treatment side effects are extremely rare. In the majority of patients, side effects can be managed effectively. However, serious side effects that cannot be managed may result in the need to interrupt, delay, modify or discontinue treatments. Your team will therefore work hard with you to manage side effects of your therapy as well as possible, so that the optimal treatment plan for you can continue.

While managing symptoms related to your treatment may be challenging, it is important not to become discouraged. Remember that most of these side effects are temporary and will subside once your body adjusts to therapy or when your course of treatment is over. Healthy new cells begin to grow and develop each day! It is critical to speak to your healthcare team about any side effects that you are experiencing so they can help you manage them with medications and other strategies.

Remember that your cancer itself can cause symptoms, and surgery and radiation can also cause side effects. To find out more about symptoms and side effects that are NOT related to drug therapies, please visit


To help you understand and manage side effects caused by drug therapies, the Colorectal Cancer Resource & Action Network (CCRAN) has developed My Colorectal Cancer Treatment Side Effects to provide you with information about some side effects of colorectal cancer drug treatments. If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer (or if you are caring for someone with colorectal cancer) and would like to know more about side effects associated with colorectal cancer drug treatments, then this tool is for you.

How Does It Work?

You will be guided through a series of questions. At the end, you will receive a report that provides details on the drug therapies you are (or will be) receiving, and the side effects that you are experiencing or may experience, including:

  • Signs and symptoms;
  • Possible causes; and
  • Strategies to prevent and manage side effects that you can then discuss with your healthcare team.

The goal is to help you have a thoughtful discussion with your treating oncologist and healthcare team by providing you with information on treatment side effects and management options that may be available for you. We hope this will encourage informed and joint decision-making between you, as a patient, your caregivers, and your treating oncologist and healthcare team.

DISCLAIMER: The tool and the information provided are not intended to replace the medical advice of your treating physician. Do not make any decisions about your treatment without consulting your physician. Do not start or stop any medications on your own. Always check with your physician before changing any of your medications. Always consult your physician before trying herbal or “natural” or “alternative” remedies. Regularly consult a physician in matters pertaining to your health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

Reviewed and Endorsed by Physician and Pharmacist Experts

The following five highly renowned experts have graciously and generously reviewed and endorsed the content in this tool.

Dr. Eric Chen

GI Medical Oncologist
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine
Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Pharmacy
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario

Dr. Eric Chen graduated from China Pharmaceutical University (BSc), University of Manitoba (PhD), and University of Toronto (MD), and is currently an attending physician in the Department of Medical Oncology and Hematology at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto. He specializes in the treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. His research focuses on the development of new drugs and treatments in cancer treatment, and he has been the principal investigator of many Phase I to Phase III clinical trials. Dr. Chen has published over 140 peer-reviewed papers in journals such as Journal of Clinical Oncology, JAMA Oncology, Clinical Cancer Research, Annals of Oncology, and Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Laura Minard

Clinical Pharmacy Coordinator, Oncology and Hematology
Pharmacy Department, Nova Scotia Health Central Zone
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dr. Laura Minard is a Clinical Pharmacy Coordinator in Oncology and Hematology at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Laura obtained her BSc from Dalhousie University followed by a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Alberta. She went on to pursue pharmacy training (BSc Pharm) at Dalhousie University and completed an Accredited Canadian Pharmacy Residency at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. She has worked in a variety of outpatient and inpatient oncology units including a pharmacist-led clinic providing education and care to patients with adjuvant/neoadjuvant breast cancer. Her research interests include optimizing patient education of oncology medications, pharmacist prescribing, and management of immune-related adverse events.

Dr. Michael Raphael

GI Medical Oncologist
Assistant Professor, Division of Medical Oncology and Hematology, University of Toronto
Odette Cancer Centre at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Head, GI Medical Oncology Clinical Trials Group
Medical Oncology Lead, Hepatic Arterial Infusion Pump (HAIP) Chemotherapy Program
Toronto, Ontario

Dr. Raphael is a Medical Oncologist at the Odette Cancer Center at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. His practice is dedicated to the care of patients with gastrointestinal cancers. He completed his medical degree at Queen’s University and his internal medicine and medical oncology training at the University of Toronto. He then completed an advanced cancer health services research fellowship and a Master’s of Science (Healthcare Quality, Risk and Safety) at Queen’s University. Dr. Raphael’s research focus is on population-based cancer care. His research aims to identify ways to optimize the coordination and delivery of cancer care services, and to describe gaps in care, disparities in access to treatment, uptake of cancer therapies, and real-world toxicity and effectiveness. His research has already influenced practice guidelines globally, and led to a new quality metric that is routinely captured by Cancer Care Ontario (“time to initiating adjuvant chemotherapy”).

Dr. Stephanie Snow

Medical Oncologist
QEII Health Sciences Centre
Associate Professor, Division of Medical Oncology
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dr. Stephanie Snow is a staff Medical Oncologist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is currently an Associate Professor at in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. After pursuing undergraduate training at McGill University, she completed her medical training at Dalhousie University. She treats head and neck, thoracic and gastrointestinal malignancies. She has a strong interest in medical education and is Vice-Chair of the Royal College Medical Oncology Examination Board. Dr. Snow also has a keen interest in patient advocacy, serving as the current President of Lung Cancer Canada and sitting on the medical advisory committees of several other patient advocacy groups in gastric and colorectal cancer, including CCRAN.

Dr. Jennifer Spratlin

Medical Oncology, Cross Cancer Institute
Associate Professor, University of Alberta
Gastrointestinal Oncology and Phase I Clinical Trials/Investigational New Drugs
Wellness Lead, Medical Oncology
Edmonton, Alberta

Dr. Spratlin is an Associate Professor at the Cross Cancer Institute, University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She graduated with her MD degree in 2001 with Honours in Research from the University of Alberta. She then completed her Internal Medicine and subsequent Medical Oncology training at the University of Alberta (2004) and Cross Cancer Institute (2006), respectively, and is certified in Canada by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in both specialties. She spent two years under the mentorship of Dr. S. Gail Eckhardt at the University of Colorado at Denver gaining specialized training in developmental therapeutics/investigations new drugs (IND)/phase I clinical trials, gastrointestinal malignancies, and translational research. In 2008, she returned to the Cross Cancer Institute, where she is currently a member of both the gastrointestinal tumour group and the IND team. She has a keen interest in physician wellness, is the Wellness Lead in the Department of Medical Oncology and is a collaborator with WellDoc Alberta

CCRAN gratefully acknowledges the support of the following companies that helped bring this tool to fruition: