Most cancer patients are often worried about chemotherapy side effects. There is always a concern about what they are likely to experience during cancer treatment period.
Typically, Chemotherapy medications prolong a person’s life by destroying fast growing and dividing cancer cells. However, it also destroys the normal healthy body cells which grow on a fast pace as it can not tell the difference . Damage of the healthy body cells is what brings short and long term chemo side effects.
Effects of chemotherapy on one’s body vary from one patient to another, some people experience more side effects than others. The type of side effects you will experience is determined by the type of chemotherapy drugs administered, your overall health and the aggressiveness of the drugs used.
This however, should not worry you because there are now treatments that can be given to manage and minimize chemotherapy side effects. Beside that, there are also other things you can do to make your life comfortable.
Common side effects of chemotherapy
There is a wide range of side effects that occur to cancer patients after being undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Some of the common side effects include;
Hair loss is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss all over your body.
Even though this act does not affect your physical health, it affects you emotionally. Hair loss usually comes several weeks into the treatment and may last from 1-3 months into your treatment.
Depending on the type of drugs and the doses you are receiving, your cancer team can be able to predict whether you will experience hair loss side effect or not.
Preparing yourself for chemotherapy hair loss can help relief you emotionally. There are also other discoveries that have been made that can prevent hair loss from chemotherapy. An example of such is wearing scalp cooling cap during chemotherapy infusions.
Nausea and vomiting
After chemo you may feel sick in the stomach (Nausea) which may lead to vomiting. Treatment for Nausea has improved greatly in recent times.
Most doctors give Anti-nausea drugs (antiemetics) alongside chemotherapy drugs to patients in order to put a stop to Nausea. Apart from using antiemetics, some home remedies have proved to work well in reducing Nausea.
Evaluating the food that you eat can help you prevent Nausea after chemotherapy treatment. According to a study conducted to a few adults who were to undergo chemotherapy, it was found that taking ginger before chemotherapy helped to reduce the severity of nausea.
For it to work effectively, use it together with the prescribed medications for preventing Nausea.
Diarrhea one of the common chemo side effect. Some chemo drugs may make your stool to become lose or watery. This can be very embarrassing sometimes as you are not able to control your stool from coming.
If left untreated, it can become a big problem. This is because you may become dehydrated. Talk to your oncologist in case you experience severe diarrhea to prevent more problems from occurring.
Read More: A guide on What to Eat for Diarrhea
Chemo weakens your immune because it kills healthy immune cells. As a result, you may get infections through chemotherapy induced sores caused by some drugs.
Your doctor will perform a complete blood count (CBC) to ensure your blood cells numbers in range before chemo infusion.
We have put together a few tips to help you lower the risks of getting an infection during chemotherapy. You can check them out.
Easy bruising and bleeding
Chemotherapy patients may experience easy bruising and bleeding. This is dangerous especially if you have so much bleeding. Use gloves and working gear when doing work that may cause bruising.
Mouth, tongue, and throat problems
Sores and pain when swallowing may be experienced after 1-2 weeks after receiving chemo treatment. The sores may become infected and begin to bleed.
Using a soft brush and maintaining good oral hygiene may help prevent infections. Your doctor may recommend using numbing gels or non-abrasive toothpaste to relief pain. If your mouth sores are not treated, chances of them developing to Oral Thrash are very high.
Skin and nail changes: such as dry skin, itchiness, rush and color change. your finger and toe nails may also turn brown or yellow with brittle nails.
Fatigue: is one of chemo common side effect. This side effect makes the patient to feel tired and exhausted all the time.
Loss of appetite: this is a common side effect you may feel fullness even though you have not taken any meal. This may make you to lose weight, and begin to feel weak.
Chemo brain: is characterized by memory or concentration problems. Some people may find it hard to think properly or concentrate after chemotherapy.
Long term side effects of chemotherapy
Some chemotherapy effects appear later in life. This are the ones referred as long term effects. They occur after months or several years after chemotherapy treatment.
Chances of you getting affected by long term side effects depends on the type of chemo drugs used. Some of the common later effects of chemo include;
Permanent Infertility is one of the long term side effects likely to occur especially to male cancer patients later in life.
If you are planning to have kids after chemotherapy, it is recommended that you undergo sperm or embryos freezing to help you conceive later after chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy drugs such as Adriamycin (doxorubicin) can cause heart disease. You can either develop a condition such as Congestive heart failure, hypertension. Your doctor may recommend that you have a heart test if your cancer requires this type of drug to determine if you are fit.
Drugs, such as Carboplatin and cisplatin may cause permanent damage to the cells in the inner ear that enable hearing leading to hearing loss.
What you need to Know about Chemotherapy Side effects
- Different patients experience different side effects. Some people may experience severe side effects while others few.
- There are other treatment that can be given to you by your doctor to relieve the side effects.
- Some cancer drugs may affect vital body organs such as the kidney, the heart, lungs and also cause long term side effects like infertility or nerve damage.
- How severe the side effects will be varies from one patient to another. Talk to your cancer care team about the effects caused by your chemo to try and find a solution.
How long Do Chemotherapy side effects last?
How long chemo side effects lasts varies depending on the type of chemo drugs used and how your body reacts. Some side effects such as vomiting and nausea can start a few hours after chemo treatment and may last about 24 hours.
However, this is not always so as somepatients experience delayed Nausia and voting after 24 hours that may last for several days. Other chemo side effects may take moths, years or never go away.
How to minimize chemotherapy side effects
Some chemotherapy side effects may be severe than others. It is very difficult to predict what each patient will experience as different people experience different side effects.
However, there are a number of things that can be done to minimize or manage some of the common side effects.
- If you are experiencing Nausea you can take a nap and get enough rest during the day.
- Eat small meals during the day slowly and drink an hour before or after meals.
- Avoid direct sunlight or sunscreen
- Use daily planner to help you remember important things like appointment, and to do list.
- Cut your hair short or use wig to make your looks better.
- Use protective gears and gloves while working to prevent bruises and bleeding.
Talk to your cancer care team in case you experience severe and harsh side effects. Some side effects may require drugs to treat them.
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- Chemotherapy Side Effects (2016) https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/chemotherapy/chemotherapy-side-effects.html
- Ginger for nausea: Does it work? by Dr. Brent A. Bauer, MD. Nov, 02, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chemotherapy/expert-answers/ginger-for-nausea/faq-20057891