What Are Chemotherapy’s Side Effects?

Fighting cancer is never an easy battle. Not only must you suffer from extreme emotional stresses, but you may also have to deal with the physical effects of aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy. While it will undoubtedly be an uphill struggle, remember that chemotherapy treatments have advanced by leaps and bounds in recent decades, and many have great success rates. However, if you���re about to undergo a course of chemotherapy, you should prepare yourself for the challenge that lies before you. Here���s what you can expect.

Chemotherapy and side effects
The term chemotherapy, although often associated with cancer treatment, simply refers to chemical therapy. Special drugs are administered that slow or stop the growth of cancer cells in the body. However, this treatment can also harm healthy cells such as those in your intestines, mouth or scalp. This damage often results in a wide range of unpleasant side effects, which can cause discomfort to the patient. Side effects of chemotherapy can be severe, and vary between different drugs and treatments, so it���s important to speak to your doctor about those likely to affect you.

Course of treatment
Your course of chemotherapy will depend on the type of cancer you have, the stage it has reached and the drugs used to treat it. Some patients receive treatment every day, while others may only receive them weekly or monthly. The chemicals can be administered orally, with a shot, or intravenously. Often, patients will need to take breaks between courses of chemotherapy, to allow the body to rebuild healthy cells.

Hair loss
If you���re worried about losing your hair during chemo, you���re not alone. In fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that both men and women identify hair loss as one of the side effects they fear most after being diagnosed with cancer. Whether or not you lose your hair will depend on the type of medication and the size of the dose you receive.

As certain chemotherapy drugs attack the cancer cells, they may also damage the cells in the roots of your hair, resulting in hair loss. This process usually occurs roughly one to three weeks after treatment begins. Apart from your head, chemotherapy can cause hair loss on other parts of your body, including the armpits, eyelashes, eyebrows and pubic area. Fortunately, hair loss is usually only temporary, and your hair should grow back fully three to 10 months after your course of chemotherapy has ended.

Other side effects
Aside from hair loss, chemotherapy can have a number of significant side effects. Most patients will experience some combination of these, though the severity will depend on the type and dose of cancer medication used. Some of the more common side effects include extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Patients may also experience problems in their mouth, gums and throat, such as loose teeth or painful sores, as well as issues with their sexual organs and fertility. Talk to your doctor about which side effects to expect and set up a support system to help you overcome them.