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12 Side Effects of Chemotherapy You Need to Be Aware of

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment option that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Although can help sufferers to feel better, this treatment has side effects for the body.

12 Side Effects of Chemotherapy You Need to Be Aware of

Recognizing the Effects of Chemotherapy on the Body

Although it can effectively kill cancer cells, this treatment can affect healthy cells. This is what then causes side effects on the body. Following are some of the side effects of chemotherapy that can occur, including:

1. Hair Loss

One of the most common effects of chemotherapy treatment is hair loss, but actually not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss (alopecia).

Hair loss may occur during the first chemotherapy treatment and may increase in the first 1 to 2 months.

Hair loss is not only head hair, but can also be eyebrow hair, eyelashes, or hair on other parts of the body.

It’s best to consult a doctor to minimize these side effects. Your doctor may recommend that you wear a cold hat or helmet (cold cap) specifically to reduce blood flow to the head which causes hair loss after chemotherapy.

2. Skin Rash or Bruising

Chemotherapy treatment causes a decrease in the number of platelets blood cells which function as blood clots when the body has a bleeding wound.

A lack of platelets can make it more difficult for blood to clot and may result in bruised, bleeding skin, bleeding gums, and nosebleeds that are hard to stop.

This treatment also improves inflammatory cells in the body, so that the platelets experience breakdown and cause the feet or hands to become swollen.

3. Decreased appetite

Some patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment may experience a decrease in appetite. In effect, sufferers can experience weight loss and loss of muscle mass, conditions that will actually complicate chemotherapy treatment.

4. Sleep Problems

Some chemotherapy patients also complain of insomnia symptoms. In fact, the lack of rest hours will further worsen the patient’s health.

Therefore, get enough rest time during chemotherapy treatment is something that is important in order to get maximum results. Consult a doctor if the symptoms of insomnia are getting out of control.

5. Mouth and Throat Disorders

Chemotherapy can also cause mouth and throat problems, usually occurring 5 to 14 days into treatment. In the medical world the condition is called mucositis.

Mouth and throat problems that may occur during chemotherapy treatment include:

  • Ulcer.
  • Sore throat.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Problems with the sense of taste.
  • Bad breath.
  • Pain when chewing or swallowing.
  • Mouth infection.

Also Read: 5 Types of Cancer That Makes You Constantly Nosebleed

6. Digestive Problems

Chemotherapy patients may experience digestive problems a few days after the first treatment. Digestive problems can be diarrhea or constipation.

7. Skin and Nail Changes

Other side effects of chemotherapy that may occur include skin and nail changes. Patients may experience minor skin irritations such as skin rash, skin, roughness, itching, uneven skin discoloration, or sensitivity to sunlight.

Apart from the skin, changes can also occur in the nails; the nails become brittle, fall off, or there are white spots/lines on the nails.

8. Anemia

During this treatment, the number of oxygen-rich red blood cells decreases and causes anemia symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, lethargy, pale skin, and irregular heartbeat.

Patients who experience anemia should increase their intake of iron such as red meat, beans, cereals, and dark green leafy vegetables to restore red blood cells in the body.

9. Impaired Memory and Concentration

This condition is known as chemo fog or chemobrain. Chemotherapy treatment can interfere with the central nervous system which is responsible for regulating coordination, concentration, cognitive, memory, mindset, and emotional functions.

Patients can ask for help from the closest person or professional to ensure that they can still live a good life. Generally, effect chemo fog It can heal when chemotherapy treatment ends.

10. Emotional Changes

Cancer patients will feel sad, anxious, or stressed with their condition. This collection of feelings of sadness and worry can also be prolonged during cancer treatment; where the sufferer is worried whether the treatment will be successful or not.

Because mental conditions can affect physical conditions, cancer patients must receive support from the closest people and professional assistance to restore enthusiasm and confidence.

Also Read: 9 Food Restrictions After Chemotherapy, Cancer Patients Must Know

11. Sexual and Fertility Problems

Chemotherapy treatment can also affect libido and reduce fertility. For women, the effects of hormonal changes due to chemotherapy can cause menstrual irregularities or sudden menopause. For men, chemotherapy treatments can affect sperm count and quality.

12. Immune System Problems

This treatment can weakens the immune system making the patient susceptible to infection.

It should also be noted, chemotherapy drugs can reduce the number of white blood cells (neutropenia) which play a role in the immune system.

You may feel tired and sick more easily than usual because your immune system is not working optimally.

How to Overcome Side Effects of Chemotherapy

The following are various ways you can do to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, including:

  • Using anti-nausea and vomiting drugs.
  • Immediately sit in an open area when feeling nauseous.
  • Eat foods high in protein and carbohydrates (puddings, cereals, puddings, milk, toast, soups, yogurt, cheese, condensed milk, dates, nuts, and other high-protein foods).
  • Eat small portions on a more frequent schedule, for example 6 times a day and consume healthy snacks.
  • Take care of your mouth by brushing your teeth before going to bed and after eating. If you can’t brush your teeth because your gums are bleeding, use a mouth wash.
  • Use lip balm as needed.
  • Avoid cigarettes, spicy food and iced water.
  • Take a shower with warm water and avoid playing sleep gadgets before going to bed.
  • To prevent infection, you should increase your intake of vitamin C, stay away from contact with sick people for a while, eat vegetables and fruit, and wash your hands frequently.

Now, those are the various side effects after chemotherapy that must be watched out for and how to overcome them. However, the benefits of chemotherapy outweigh the side effects it causes. You should always consult a doctor to minimize negative impacts while increasing the chances of recovery.

  1. Anonymous. 2019. Side Effects of Chemotherapy. https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/chemotherapy/side-effects-chemotherapy. (Accessed 9 February 2023).
  2. Anonymous. Side effects-Chemotherapy. 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chemotherapy/side-effects/. (Accessed 9 February 2023.
  3. Pietrangelo, Ann. 2019. The Effects of Chemotherapy on Your Body. https://www.healthline.com/health/cancer/effects-on-body. (Accessed 9 February 2023).

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