A Guide to Cancer Immunotherapy

Your immune system fights against viruses, bacteria and cancer. It can tell the difference between healthy cells and invaders. Your immune system normally recognizes certain tags on cancer cells. Usually, it can catch the cancer cells before they grow and multiply. Sometimes a cancer cell is good at hiding from the immune system by turning certain switches off or on. It can disguise itself as a healthy cell to trick the immune system.

Immunotherapy Helps Find Cancer Cells

Immunotherapy helps the immune system find the cancer cells that are flying under the radar. You may have already had a biopsy, which is a sample of your cancer cells. This sample can give your health care team an idea of what biomarkers, or tags, are on the cancer cells. This helps your team find out which immunotherapy is right for you.

Some immunotherapies work better for different cancers. Immunotherapies work in two ways:

  1. Attacking the cancer directly
  2. Boosts your own immune system to fight cancer

Your health care team will determine which immunotherapy is best for you.

What to look out for


Image showcasing what to look out in the human body

Image above showcases what to look for in the:


  • Change in eyesight
  • Yellowing of whites of eyes
  • Eye pain

Mouth and Head

  • Dry mouth
  • Ulcers in mouth and/or lining of nose
  • Change in sense of taste
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Headaches that will not go away or unusual headache
  • Feeling thirstier than usual
  • Swelling of the face
  • Confusion and/or memory problems
  • Seizures

Throat and Chest

  • New or worse cough
  • Ulcers in throat
  • Voice getting deeper
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • irregular heartbeat

Skin and Hair

  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Patches of skin that have lost their colour
  • Rash or itchy skin
  • Blisters and/or sores on skin
  • Peeling skin
  • Ulcers in genital area
  • Bleeding or bruising more easily than normal
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Hair falling out
  • Tender lumps on skin

Stomach and Bowels

  • Feeling less hungry or more hungry than usual
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Constipated
  • Diarrhea
  • More bowel movements than normal
  • Black, tarry, sticky stools
  • Stools with blood or mucus
  • Severe stomach pain or tenderness


  • Changes in the amount of urine
  • Changes in the colour of urine
  • Need to urinate more often

Muscles, Joints, and Legs

  • Severe or persistent muscle pain 
  • Severe or persistent joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swelling in legs or arms
  • Back pain


  • Unusually tired or weak
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling colder than usual
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Related to the infusion

  • Shortness of breath
  • Itching or rash
  • Dizziness or fever
  • Wheezing
  • Flushing
  • Feeling like passing out


If you have a symptom or side effect that is not listed here, do not wait until your next appointment to speak with your health care team. Call Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre Telephone Triage Nursing (TTN) or CAREChart@home after-hours telephone nursing line.

Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre TTN: 

  • Telephone: (519) 685-8600 and press ‘1’ then ‘3’. 
  • Hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

CAREChart@home after hours nursing line:

  • Email: CAREChart@home
  • Hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 4:00 pm to 8:30 am weekends and holidays (24 hours)

If it is an emergency, go to your nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1.