We're not talking about the illegal, anabolic type that bodybuilders use, we're talking about the kind used in cancer treatment – synthetic derivatives of the natural steroid cortisol.
Common steroids used in cancer treatment are hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone and prednisone.
Steroids have many purposes in cancer treatment
- to control nausea and vomiting
- to make chemotherapy more effective
- to reduce allergic reactions to certain chemotherapy drugs
- to help headaches caused by brain tumours
- to improve appetite
In these situations steroids are usually given only for short periods of time, so the likelihood of common side effects is reduced.
Common side effects
- Fullness in your cheeks or what is sometimes called “moon face” is one effect of steroids. Another is the accumulation of fatty tissue at the back of your neck, creating a ‘hump’ of sorts.
But never fear – this side effect will last only as long as you are taking steroids. They will not change your appearance forever.
- Steroids can make it harder to sleep, which may cause irritability. Try taking your steroids early in the day to not disrupt your sleep patterns.
- Steroids can sometimes make hair grow in unusual places. This is especially cruel for girls. You may experience hair growth on your face, usually along your cheekbone, but trust us – it will go away.
- Steroids sometimes make your skin sort of thin, causing you to bruise more easily. And you might develop acne on your face or other parts of your body.