Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Managing my other conditions, as well as my cancer

Managing my other conditions, as well as my cancer  image

If you have a chronic medical condition it should be managed alongside your cancer. The management of these other health issues, called co-existing (or “comorbid”) conditions, is important as it can increase the side effects you may experience from cancer treatment, or mean that you take longer to recover from treatment.1,2

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Treatment for your cancer and the other condition may interact with each other1
  • Your co-existing condition may worsen as a result of your cancer or cancer treatment1
  • You might feel less able or less inclined to keep up with treatment either for your cancer or for your previous condition3

Your doctor will help you understand how your co-existing condition might affect your cancer treatment; this could also help when you are choosing treatment options. 2

Click on one of the following common co-existing conditions to understand how to manage your specific condition in order to stay as well as possible during cancer treatment.

Managing diabetes

Cancer treatment may affect your diabetes:

  • Chemotherapy may cause you to lose your appetite or vomit, reducing your blood glucose level4
  • Radiotherapy or lack of physical activity may affect your blood glucose level1

Here are some steps you and your medical team can take to minimise risks:

  • Your oncologist should speak to your diabetes specialist, to discuss any possible adaptations to your care4
  • In some cases, you may need to have your chemotherapy in hospital, so the medical team can monitor your blood glucose levels carefully and give i.v. glucose if necessary1,4
  • You may be prescribed anti-sickness medication to prevent vomiting or food supplements to raise your blood glucose level1,4

As diabetics are more prone to infections than other people, you should watch carefully for signs that you have an infection when you are having cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, and contact your doctor immediately if you think you do.4

Managing heart disease

Your cancer treatment may affect co-existing heart disease for the following reasons:

  • Some drugs used to treat cancer may have the potential to worsen your heart condition1
  • Some drugs used to treat cancer may cause your blood pressure to rise1
  • Some cancer treatments may have the potential to affect the heart5

Here are some steps you and your medical team can take to manage your condition:

  • Your doctor should monitor your heart function and blood pressure closely during treatment1
  • Your oncologist and your cardiologist should work together as a team to manage your heart condition during cancer treatment1
  • You can lead a healthy lifestyle while you are receiving treatment; this will help protect your heart5

Managing depression or anxiety

Clinical depression may affect your cancer treatment in the following ways:

  • Your depression or anxiety may prevent you from adhering to your treatment or going for tests1
  • Some antidepressants or anxiolytics interact with some cancer medications, so you may need to temporarily stop taking them while you are being treated for cancer1

Here are some steps that can be taken to manage your depression or anxiety during cancer treatment:

  • Always tell your doctor about ALL the other medications you are taking, so that your doctor can ensure that nothing affects the effectiveness of your treatment6
  • You may find that individual or group counselling or joining a support group will help1

Managing kidney disease

Kidney disease may affect your cancer treatment because:

  • Decreased kidney function may mean that your body is unable to process chemotherapy properly1
  • If you are on dialysis, the chemotherapy drugs may be filtered out of your bloodstream along with the waste products1

Kidney disease can be managed during cancer treatment by:

  • Very close cooperation between your oncologist and the doctor treating your kidney disease, to assess and manage the condition7


  1. Cancer.Net. When cancer is not your only health concern. Accessed March 2016.
  2. Cancer.Net. Multiple health concerns in older adults Accessed March 2016.
  3. Søgaard M, et al. The impact of comorbidity on cancer survival: a review. Clin Epidemiol. 2013;5 Suppl 1:3-29.
  4. Cancer Research UK. Diabetes and chemotherapy. Accessed March 2016.
  5. Macmillan. How cancer treatment can affect your heart. Accessed March 2016.
  6. Cancer.Net. The importance of taking your medication correctly. Accessed May 2016.
  7. Humphreys BD, et al. Renal failure associated with cancer and its treatment: an update. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2005;16:151-61.