Patient Guide on Immunotherapy-Related Side Effects and Their Management

Immune-related side effects arising from treatment with checkpoint inhibitors can affect any organ or tissue, but most commonly affect the skin, colon, lungs, liver and endocrine organs (such as the pituitary gland or thyroid gland).

Most of these side effects are mild to moderate and reversible if detected early and addressed appropriately, so the most important action you can take is to tell your doctor or oncology team of any new or worsening symptoms, or any symptoms that are worrying you.

Side-effects of checkpoint inhibitor treatment typically appear within a few weeks or months of starting treatment, but they can arise at any time during treatment – as early as days after the first infusion, but sometimes as long as 1 year after treatment has finished.

In this guide, you can find information about:

  • The immune system and cancer
  • The concept of immuno-oncology
  • How does modern immunotherapy differ from chemotherapy and tumour-targeted drugs?
  • What are the side effects of immunotherapy?
    • What symptoms should I look out for?
    • When are these side effects most likely to appear and how common are they?
  • How will immunotherapy-related side effects be managed? 
    • Management of most common immune-related side effects
    • Management of rare side effects

Download the guide

This guide has been prepared to help you, your family and your friends better understand the nature of immunotherapy-related side effects and their management. The medical information described in this document is based on the ESMO Clinical Practice Guideline for management of toxicities from immunotherapy, which is designed to help clinicians with the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of these events.

The Patient Guide on Immunotherapy-related side effects and their management is published in 2017.