Cancer Emergencies

The following guidelines can help you decide what to do in case of an emergency.

  • Shortness of breath or chest pain -- If you become short of breath suddenly or have shortness of breath that doesn't go away after resting for a few minutes, go to the nearest emergency room immediately or call 911. Chest pain could indicate many things, as can numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, difficulty thinking or walking. It is best to call 911 or go directly to an emergency room.
  • Nausea or vomiting - If your anti-nausea medications do not help, or if you cannot keep down at least 2 quarts of fluid a day, call your doctor as soon as possible.
  • External bleeding needs direct pressure applied until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding does not stop, consult your doctor or call 911. If you have new bruising or bleeding from around gums, bloody nose, black or red stools, or blood in urine or around any needle injection sites, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Fevers - If you have a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, contact your doctor. Call if you have chills, with or without a fever. Ask your doctor to tell you what temperature is considered serious for you. Fever can indicate an infection - if you are in doubt, call your doctor or 911.
  • Confusion or extreme sleepiness that can't be shaken could indicate several serious problems. Don't take any medications, food or water until you have received specific instructions from a doctor.
  • Other reasons to contact your doctor - if you have increased pain, sensitivity, or sores that develop in your mouth, on your lips, in your throat or in your rectal area. If you have diarrhea 2-3 times daily for more than two days, or if you are constipated or have no bowel movement for 2-3 days, call your doctor. Increased pain or new pain may indicate a change is needed in your pain medications, so let your doctor know as soon as possible.

If anything happens that you weren't warned about, or if symptoms seem more worrisome than you were led to believe, call your doctor. If you are in doubt about the seriousness of what's happening, call 911 or proceed to the emergency room.

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