Today cancer has become one among the leading causes of death worldwide. It is responsible for about 8.8 million deaths in 2015, And have grown significantly by then. Treatment options for cancer include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. But most of us are unaware of the side effects of chemotherapy cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells by targeting rapidly dividing cells. But during the process, it not only targets cancer-infected cells, but normal cells are also most likely to be damaged, which include blood-forming cells in the bone marrow, hair follicles, and cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system. Certain chemo drugs can also damage cells in the heart, kidneys, bladder, lungs, and nervous system.
Damage to healthy cells made by chemotherapy drugs causes side effects. Side effects may not seem as bad as you might expect. Let’s see some of them.
Side effects of chemotherapy cancer treatment
During chemotherapy treatment, patients might experience fatigue and general weakness. Patients may feel like they don’t have any energy and are tired all the time. This persistent exhaustion and weakness can make it hard to do everyday activities.
In some patients, chemotherapy can lead to anemia, and low red blood cell counts, which can worsen the fatigue.
Fatigue is the most common side effect of chemotherapy cancer treatment. Doctors estimate that 9 out of 10 people experience fatigue during chemo treatment. Fatigue from treatment can appear suddenly and can be overwhelming.
Surprisingly, Taking rest doesn’t ease the fatigue, it can last for months even after treatment ends.
2. Nausea and Vomiting
Another common side effect of chemotherapy is nausea and vomiting. As said before, chemotherapy damages healthy cells as well, Nausea and vomiting mainly occur as a result of the damage to healthy cells in the stomach and intestinal lining.
We recommend that you consult with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Vomiting more than 4 or 5 times in a day.
- Stomach seems swelling or painful before you vomit.
- Vomiting continues even after taking anti-nausea medicine
If you vomit after starting the chemo treatment, talk to your doctor. You may be able to switch medications accordingly. Antinausea medications are given along with chemotherapy drugs to help alleviate the symptom.
3. Hair Loss
Chemo treatments can also lead to hair loss. You will start to notice hair loss generally about one to three weeks after the initial treatment. Losing hair, especially for women can be a depressing situation. Not just the hairs on the head, chemotherapy can affect eyelashes, eyebrows, armpit hair and pubic hair.
Your hair may notice the hair growing back while having the treatment or it may take about 3 to 6 months after treatment to see the hair growing back.
During chemotherapy, the lining of your stomach and intestines become damaged which causes diarrhea. Patients may experience loose watery stools several times a day.
It can also be accompanied by nausea, bloating, and cramps. In addition, diarrhea may be a consequence of biochemical changes caused by chemotherapy.
Prevention and early treatment can help limit dehydration, which is the loss of too much body fluid.
5. Mouth Sores
Mouth and throat sores are also called mucositis. Chemotherapy can cause sores in the mouth, mucous lining of the throat and digestive tract. They look like ulcers and can be red and swollen. Mouth sores can affect your ability to eat, drink, chew, swallow, and talk, In addition, it can be painful as well.
When you notice sores in your mouth and throat, avoid spicy, hot, or acidic foods and drinks, Since – they can further irritate your condition. Try to include cold milk products and sour cream before meals, this will help to soothe the painful areas.
Above said are few major side effects of chemotherapy cancer treatment. In addition to those, Let’s see some more common side effects caused by chemotherapy:
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
- Appetite changes
- Mouth, tongue, and throat problems such as sores and pain with swallowing
- Nerve and muscle problems like numbness, tingling, and pain
- Nature of skin and nail changes such as dry skin and color change
- Changes in the urine, problems seem in bladder and kidney
- Weight changes
- Chemo brain, which can affect concentration and focus
- Mood changes
- Changes in libido and sexual function
- Fertility problems
So, these are some of the common side effects of chemotherapy cancer treatment. Always tell your doctor and oncology nurse about any side effects that you may be experiencing due to chemotherapy.