Fact Sheet on the Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is one of the most common types of treatment given to cancer patients. It involves the utilization of drugs or medications in treating different types of cancer. There are mainly two reasons why a cancer patient gets chemotherapy.Side-e

First, it relieves symptoms like pain by controlling or eliminating tumor growths; second, it reduces the likelihood of tumor recurrence after surgery or radiation therapy. However, some side effects of chemotherapy come into notice during the treatment process.

Cancer cells grow and divide more quickly than normal cells do. Drugs used for chemotherapy not only eradicate the cancer cells, but it also affects the normal, growing cells.

This adverse reaction to normal cells causes the side effects of chemotherapy.

The fast-growing yet normal cells which are mostly affected during chemo therapy are blood cells forming in the bone marrow and cells present in the digestive tract, reproductive system and hair follicles.

Some side effects of chemotherapy can also be seen in vital organs such as the heart, lungs,bladder and nervous system.

When the chemotherapy is over, normal cells usually start recovering so most of the adverse side effects just go away.

Although most of the side effects of chemotherapy are not permanent and usually disappear at the end of the treatment; some long term changes can be noticed in the body even after the final course of chemotherapy. These changes can last for months or many years after the chemotherapy sessions.

The long term effects of some chemotherapeutic drugs appear in later years when they cause another cancer which is called secondary cancer. Different chemotherapy drugs cause different side effects and if one is worried about its long term side effects, a visit to one’s oncologist would prove to be beneficial.

The most common side effects of chemotherapy include anemia, low Red Blood Cell count, Low White Blood Cell count, hair loss or alopecia, dry skin, rashes, reproductive and fertility problems, fatigue, diarrhea, lung problems and constipation.

After a long and intense treatment, the patient is likely to have a lower resistance to common infections for a very long time after the chemotherapy has been completed. This happens because some of the components of chemotherapeutic agents contain in them chemicals which suppress the immune system.

For this reason, cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy are on reverse isolation and placed in a more contained environment. Most of the patients taking chemotherapy feel more tiredthan usual for quite a long period after the treatment. This is most likely to happen after undergoing several sessions, or after a very intensive treatment.

Furthermore, fatigue also occurs after a high dose chemotherapy session or post stem cell transplant. Aside from chemotherapy, there are other alternatives in combating the growth of cancer cells and one of them is radiation therapy.

Before going through the process of chemotherapy, it would be best to consult one’s oncologist for doubts and questions. Certain drugs and interventions are actually being administered in order to prevent or reduce the bothersome side effects of chemotherapy.