What you need to know about chemo side effects

Chemotherapy kills regular cells, as well as cancer cells, and this is why side effects occur. Some side effects are mild and easily treated, whilst some people can experience adverse side effects or none at all. 

As the severity of side effects varies from person to person and depends on the chemotherapy drugs you are receiving, be sure to talk to your cancer care team about which side effects are most common with your chemo, how long they might last, how bad they might be, and when you should call your cancer care team.

Common Side Effects

It is important to be aware of possible side effects from chemotherapy so you know what to watch for and can talk with your cancer care team about preventing and relieving them. To help you prepare, look at this list below of common side effects.  

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Infection
  • Anaemia (low red blood cell counts)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite changes
  • Constipation/Diarrhoea 
  • Mouth, tongue, and throat problems such as sores and pain with swallowing
  • Peripheral neuropathy or other nerve problems
  • Skin and nail changes
  • Urine/bladder changes and kidney problems
  • Weight changes
  • Chemo brain
  • Mood changes
  • Changes in libido and sexual function
  • Fertility problems

    Can Side Effects Be Treated?

    There are some medicines your doctor will give you to help prevent certain side effects before they happen. Preventing and treating side effects is called palliative care or supportive care. It is an important part of your cancer treatment. 

    Not only can medicines reduce side effects but also learning simple techniques such as; deep breathing and drinking peppermint tea for nausea or sucking on ice cubes for mouth sores. Discover these techniques here - Tips & Tricks 

    Doctors and scientists are always working to develop drugs, drug combinations, and ways of giving treatment with fewer side effects. Many types of chemotherapy now bring less side effects than even a few years ago. 

    Long Term Side Effects 

    The long-term side effects or late effects are less well-known. They usually appear after treatment has finished and can linger for months or even years. Some complications of chemotherapy are permanent. These can include damage to your respiratory, circulatory, sensory, excretory, and reproductive systems. This varies according to your overall health, type of cancer, and type of chemotherapy drugs used. 

    Still, many people have no long-term problems from chemo. Ask your doctor if the chemo drugs you’re getting have long-term effects.

    Long Term Effects Include:

    • Hearing Problems 
    • Cognitive Difficulties 
    • Heart problems 
    • Lung Problems 
    • Osteoporosis - Weakening of the bones. 
    • Nerve damage 
    • Early Menopause 
    • Infertility