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Side effects of chemotherapy

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Chemotherapy can create different types of cancer effectively. However, like other types of treatments, it also has some side effects. The side effects that show after chemotherapy may be different for different people and it will also depend on the type of cancer, drugs and dose, location and your overall health.

Why do the side effects happen?

Chemotherapy is used on active cells, which are growing and dividing into same type of cells. Cancer cells are active and the healthy cells surrounding them are also active cells. Side effects show up when chemotherapy damages the other healthy cells. Such other healthy cells may include cells present in blood, mouth, digestive system and hair follicles.

Treatment of side effects

The side effects of chemotherapy can be treated. Besides treatment, they can also be prevented from happening. Different types of medications are now available for the side effects resulting from chemotherapy. Treating and preventing side effects of chemotherapy is known as palliative care and it is an important part of cancer treatment. More and more works are going on to find better drugs, drug combinations and ways of chemotherapy with fewer side effects.

Common side effects of chemotherapy

Even though different medicines can cause different side effects and different types of chemotherapy often have different and specific side-effects, its person's experience may be different. You will be able to better notice the side effects. Some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy include-

  • You may feel tired or exhausted almost all the time. It is the most common side effect of chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy sometimes causes pain. Such pains can include headaches, muscle pain, stomach pain and pain from nerve damage. If you suffer from pain from nerve damage, you may experience burning, numbness or shooting pain. Such pains generally happen in the fingers and toes.
  • Mouth and throat sores. If chemotherapy damages the cells inside the mouth and throat, it can cause painful sores in such areas. Such sores easily happen 5 to 14 days after treatment. They can also get infected.
  • Sometimes, chemotherapy can cause lose or watery bowel movements.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Constipation
  • blood disorders
  • sexual and reproductive issues
  • nervous system problem

Treatment options for the side effects

Most types of pain resulting from chemotherapy get better all go away between treatments. However, in case of nerve damage instead of getting better, it can get worse. If that happens, the drugs causing nerve damage have to be stopped. It may take a longer duration for the pain resulting from nerve damage to go away. Treatment of pain is generally done depending on what is causing it. If the pain is related to chemotherapy, your doctors can give you pain relieving medicines. They can also block pain signals from the nerves to the brain by using spinal treatments or nerve blocks. Your doctors may also adjust doses of chemotherapy to make the pain go away.

The possibility of mouth and throat sores can be reduced by eating a healthy diet and keeping your mouth and teeth clean. They may generally go away when the treatment ends.

You need to prevent diarrhoea or treated early to keep yourself from getting dehydrated by losing too much body fluid.

Nausea and vomiting can be prevented with the right medications before and after each dose of chemotherapy.

To get rid of constipation you need to make habits of drinking enough fluids, eating balanced meals and getting necessary exercise.


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