Chemotherapy side effects

What are chemotherapy side effects?

Chemotherapy may lead to potential side-effects concerning the mouth, intestine, skin, hair and bone marrow. These side-effects do not affect everyone as they depend on which drug was used for the treatment of the cancer, thus varying with each individual case.

Generally, these side effects regard those tissues with a rapid cellular replacement rate (hair follicles, mucosa and blood). The doctor will determine what chemotherapy treatment is the best option for you, trying to prevent potential side-effects as much as possible.

What are the main side effects of chemotherapy?

The main side effects of chemotherapy are:

  • Gastrointestinal tract problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, altered taste, loss of appetite, inflammation or ulcers in your mouth (given that the mucosa of the digestive tract have a fairly quick cellular replacement rate);
  • Bone marrow suppression and immunodeficiency: the bone marrow’s ability to regenerate blood cells is impaired. This may lead to developing conditions such as thrombocytopaenia, anaemia or leukopaenia;
  • Prolonged fatigue caused by several concurrent factors: taking certain medications, sleep deprivation or eating an unhealthy diet;
  • Hair loss: depending on which medication you are taking, hair loss could be partial or none at all;
  • Skin problems, such as xeroderma associated with itchy skin, skin discolouration, nail disorders, mucositis or alopecia;
  • Peripheral neuropathy (of the peripheral nervous system): a tingling sensation on your hands and feet;
  • Damage to other organs: depending on which medication you are taking, this may affect the heart, lungs, liver or kidneys;
  • Sexuality and fertility problems (which may be psychological and/or physical): the vagina mucosa may be damaged by chemotherapy, making intercourse painful.
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