Health, Nutrition & Fitness

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Information about side effects of chemotherapy, their cause, symptoms, and treatment for chemotherapy side effects.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy Side EffectsChemotherapy is the use of drugs or medication to treat the disease or chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill bacteria, viruses, cancer cells and fungi.

Today the word ‘chemotherapy’ is used most often to describe a method of cancer treatment. Now a day, chemotherapy is being used to achieve goals more optimistic and realistic than those in the past. Chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cells ability to grow or reproduce. Chemotherapy may be used alone for some types of cancer or in combination with other treatments such as radiation or surgery, Anti cancer drugs can affect normal tissues also, because they act on any rapidly developing cells in the body, the normal cells most likely to be affected are those in the bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive system, and hair follicles.

Chemotherapy is most often given in cycles

How chemotherapy is given

  • As an injection in to the muscle or fat tissue
  • In to the form of pills
  • Topically (direct application to the skin)
  • In to the fluid around the brain or spine
  • In to the tumor
  • In to an artery
  • In to a body cavity such as the bladder, chest cavity, or abdominal cavity

Side effects of chemotherapy

You take medicine for some desired effect. Different medicines can lower blood pressure, relieve pain, kill bacteria, and so on. The effects are usually predictable and beneficial. But medicines often have other effects, which may be predictable but aren’t necessary beneficial. Side effects are undesired consequences that may occur when taking certain medicines. For instance while the predictable and beneficial effect narcotic is to relieve pain, one of its side effects is sleepiness. You’re often informed of the side effects of common medications when they’re prescribed. Since many chemotherapy medicines work by damaging cells that divide frequently, we can predict that these medicines will have an effect on the normal, noncancerous cells in your body that also divide frequently. These are cells of bone marrow and the mucus membrane of the gastrointestinal tract. Hair follicle cells also divide frequently, and they are sensitive to some chemotherapy medicines.

The kind of side effects you may experience depends on the kind of chemotherapy drug you’re getting. The dose and the frequency of your treatments. Your doctor or nurse will tell you what you can expect with each recommended drug or treatment. It’s most important to remember that most of these side effects of chemo are temporary.

Because chemotherapy goes all through our body, it can destroy cancer cells wherever they may be hiding. Side effects are the result of chemo’s effect on the other, normal cells in your body. Some side effects are preventable. For instance, the side effect of nausea can often be prevented by taking antinausea medication before getting chemo, and for several doses after forward. Some side effects cannot be prevented, but there are still many things that you can do minimize, relieve, or manage them.

Preventing and managing the side effects of chemotherapy is important. When you eat, drink, and sleep well, your healthy cells recover more quickly. Knowing what to expect and how to prevent and manage the side effects of treatment will make things less overwhelming and help your spirits as well.

Some common side effects of chemotherapy are following:

  • Decrease the blood cell count
  • Hair loss
  • Kidney damage
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bladder damage
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lung damage
  • Heart damage
  • Feeling of pain due to damage in the nerves
  • Abdominal pain
  • Allergic reactions
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Impaired fertility
  • Fluctuations in blood electrolytes
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Bronchospasm
  • Rashes
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Dryness of skin
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Numbness and tingling of fingers and toes
  • Joint pain
  • Change of taste in mouth
  • Seizures
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Photosensitivity
  • Jaw pain
  • Confusion
  • Loss of weight

About the author

Dr. Manisha Bhatia

Dr. Manisha Bhatia

BHMS, M.D. (Hom), CICH (Greece)
Dr. Manisha is a leading homeopathy physician working in Rajasthan, India. She has studied with George Vithoulkas through the IACH e-learning course. She is Director of Asha Homeopathy Medical Center, Jaipur and has been practicing since 2004. She has worked as a Lecturer of Homeopathic Repertory at S.K. Homeopathy Medical College, Jaipur and is currently Asso. Professor, HoD and PG Guide for the Department of Psychiatry in the same institute. Find more about her at www.ashahomeopathy.com

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