Why does chemo make you sick?
Chemotherapy kills both normal cells and cancer cells, and this is why a range of side effects occur. Some side effects are mild and easily treated, whilst some people 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.
What are the side effects of chemotherapy?
In order to help you prepare, here is a list of common side effects of chemotherapy that you might encounter. In order to help you prepare, keep in mind that they are all possible and that you can speak with your cancer care team about preventing or relieving them.
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Anaemia (low red blood cell counts)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite changes
- 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
How to minimise chemotherapy side effects
During your cancer treatment, there are some medicines that your doctor will prescribe that will help you prevent certain side effects before they occur. The concept of preventing and treating side effects is known as palliative or supportive care and is an important part of your cancer treatment.
As well as the use of medicines, there are also simple techniques you can use to reduce side effects. These include deep breathing and drinking peppermint tea to reduce nausea or sucking on ice cubes for mouth sores. Check out our Tips & Tricks page to learn more.
Many types of chemotherapy are now available with far less side effects than they used to be a couple of years ago, thanks to doctors and scientists working constantly on developing drugs, drug combinations, and ways of giving treatment with fewer side effects.
What are the long-term side effects of chemotherapy?
Many patients are unaware of the long-term side effects of chemotherapy. These side effects usually appear after the treatment has ended and can linger for months or even years. There are complications of chemotherapy that are permanent. These include damage to your respiratory, circulatory, sensory, excretory, and reproductive systems. They vary based on your overall health, your cancer type, and the type of chemotherapy you are taking. 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 of chemotherapy on the body
Osteoporosis - Weakening of the bones.
Need more help with preparing for cancer treatment? Check out this blog! 'How to prepare for your cancer journey'