Side effects of immunotherapy
Checkpoint immunotherapy can cause side effects anywhere in the body. These are different to the side effects of other cancer treatments and need to be managed differently. The side effects of immunotherapy are sometimes called immune-related adverse effects (IRAEs).
This diagram shows some possible side effects of immunotherapy. You may have side effects within days of starting treatment, but more commonly they occur many weeks or months after starting treatment. In some rare cases, new side effects can appear months after treatment.
Learn more about:
|Let your treatment team know about any over-the-counter medicines or natural therapies you are thinking about using. Some may affect how the immunotherapy works or make side effects worse.|
Listen to our podcast on New Cancer Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy
Immunotherapy can cause inflammation, which may lead to different side effects depending on which part of the body becomes inflamed. The diagrams below shows examples of both common and rare side effects.
The side effects you might experience will depend on the type of immunotherapy you receive and how your body responds. Most people have mild side effects. Side effects are likely to be more severe if you are taking a combination of immunotherapy drugs or having immunotherapy with other cancer treatments.
|Other rare side effects can occur. Let your treatment team know about any new or worsening side effects during or after treatment. Do not try to treat side effects yourself. Most immunotherapy side effects can be managed and reversed if they are reported early.|
A/Prof Brett Hughes, Senior Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and The Prince Charles Hospital, and Associate Professor, The University of Queensland, QLD; Dawn Bedwell, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Tamara Dawson, Consumer; A/Prof Craig Gedye, Senior Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Associate Professor, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, NSW; A/Prof Alexander Menzies, Medical Oncologist, Associate Professor of Melanoma Medical Oncology, and Faculty Member, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital and Mater Hospital, NSW; Dr Donna Milne, Nurse Consultant Melanoma and Skin Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Geoffrey Peters, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Canberra Hospital and Health Services, and Clinical Lecturer, Australian National University, ACT.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum
Work and cancer
Information for employees, employers and workplaces dealing with cancer
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono legal and financial matters, no interest loans or help with small business
Managing cancer side effects
Learn more about the range of side effects cancer can cause, and how to manage these
Other cancer treatments
Learn more about other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and targeted therapy
View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends