Because chemotherapy drugs can damage your healthy cells as well as cancer cells, some side effects will likely occur. But not always as bad as you’ve heard.
Chemo’s side effects experienced differ based on:
- route for delivery
- type of drugs administered
- how the drugs affect you individually
Areas of your body with rapid dividing cell tissue are the most vulnerable to chemo destruction, notably:
- hair follicles
- bone marrow
- digestive tract lining
- reproductive tract lining
It’s the blow to these cells accounting for nearly all of cancer treatment drug’s side effects.
Chemotherapy side effects are brought to you temporarily and long term. Your short term side effects may encompass:
- hair loss
- dry mouth
- weight loss
- watery eyes
- mouth sores
- appetite loss
- fluid retention
- tastes changes
- nausea & vomiting
- dark circles under eyes
- urine color & smell changes
- cognitive issues ~ chemo fog
Not all chemo drugs cause these possible side effect.
Very often these side effects subside after chemo treatment stops. And medications are available to help minimized some of your health effects along the way.
Long lasting side effects, or those discovered long after treatment ends, include:
- nerve damage
- hemorrhagic cystitis
- organ damage ~ heart, lungs, kidneys, liver
- another cancer ~ lymphoma, leukemia, some tumors
These enduring side effects are rare. However, keep a look out for the health of it.
Chemotherapy’s bone marrow suppression is a very common side effect. It results in lowered white, red and platelet counts.
Reduction in these 3 types of blood carry their own unique health risks requiring heightened watchfulness:
- white blood cells helps your body fight infection
- red blood cells transport oxygen for energy production
- platelets helps prevent excessive bleeding from damaged blood vessels
Having a low white blood cell count means you’ll need to watch for these signs and symptoms of infection:
- new cough
- stuffy nose
- sore throat
- painful urination
- shortness of breath
- injury pain, redness, swelling, warmth
Preventative measures may be taken, like:
- staying clear of others until your count recovers
- growth factors to keep count from falling too low
Low red blood cell counts means you have anemia. Anemic symptoms are:
- heart rate increase
- exertion shortness of breath
- skin, mucous membranes paleness ~ mouth & gums
Low platelet counts cause:
- nose bleeds
- bloody stool
- easy bruising
- bleeding gums
- excessive bleeding of minor cuts, scrapes
If your platelet count is extremely low, internal bleeding is a health concern.
Some chemotherapy drugs can cause changes to your central nervous system. Side effects as a result of chemo caused nerve damage can even occur years later, and produce these symptoms:
Damage to your cranial nerves can cause:
Peripheral nerve problems typically affect hands and feet, causing:
- sensation decrease
Nerves can heal, but sometimes the damage is permanent.
Chemotherapy can affect the way your brain functions, albeit changes may be subtle. Exact cause is unknown, research is ongoing.
Your health care provider, or oncologist, is the best source for communicating which side effects you should expect. Your next health challenge will be managing those chemo caused side effects.