Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Breast Cancer Patients who are undergoing breast cancer treatment as well as other cancer patients are often faced with the issue of how to reduce side effects of chemotherapy. Dealing with the chronic disease itself may be daunting, but that does not mean it is impossible. It is just about understanding chemo side effects when do they start and knowing how long do chemo side effects last. Being equipped with the right knowledge and taking small yet definite steps can really help ease chemotherapy side effects. Do remember, staying positive is key to any recovery and can often wreak miracles.

What Are The Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Side effects can be long-term side effects of chemotherapy or short-term side effects.

  1. Nausea And Vomiting: Feeling sick in the stomach is often an immediate side effect. Though not a major impediment, it may kill your appetite for food. Eat 5-6 small meals through the day, try apple juice and ginger-ale to ward off queasiness and avoid strong-smelling foods.

  2. Fatigue: Chemo drugs may reduce your red blood cell count, so you may feel low on energy. Do some mild exercise to give yourself a boost, and take short naps during the day. Also, channel your energy towards the most important things.

  3. Taste Changes in Mouth: Drugs may leave a medicine-like taste or lead to a dry feeling in the mouth. This is a temporary effect, and you may consult your dietician to help you choose the right foods for a tasteful and enjoyable meal that boosts your appetite too. Experiment with different kinds of food and try eating out of a plastic utensil if you get a “metallic” taste.

  4. Weight Changes: As a chemo patient, your food preferences may change. Some people lose their appetite, while others feel like eating specific foods. This is natural. Chart out a diet plan with your dietician to maintain a healthy weight, make sure you include your favourite healthy foods to help you stick to the plan. 

  1. Hair Loss: This is amongst the characteristic and cancer chemo side effects. The good news is that it is temporary, eventually your lustrous locks will grow back to their original glory, once the chemo treatment is done. So, all you need to do is look for a temporary solution like choosing a wig for the time-being. Also, use soft-bristled hair brushes post-treatment and avoid harsh products like hair-colour. We strongly suggest you or your loved one to watch our video on Hair Loss Tips for Cancer Patients for know more.

  2. Nerve Damage: All the drugs that are charged up in killing those cancer cells may also lead to some nerve damage. You may feel tingling sensations, numbness or pain in your hands and feet. This is a long-term effect; hence you must report any such symptoms to your doctor immediately. Stay active through some mild exercise and engage in brain-racking activities like puzzles to keep alert.

  3. Pain: Pain is one of the major side effects of chemotherapy. The positive side to pain is that, it may not be because of the cancer cells, but often it results from the treatment you are undergoing. So, as long as your body is fighting off the cancer, some pain may be acceptable. However, make sure you regularly report the nature, location and intensity of pain and keep a tab on it.

  4. Weak Immunity: Because chemo drugs sometimes affect the white blood cells (WBCs), your WBC count may plummet, making you prone to infection. Be on the lookout for signs of infection and undergo regular blood tests. Make sure you eat and live hygienically and do not stress yourself.

Worried About What Will Happen After Chemotherapy

Perhaps the biggest question that cancer patients face is “how to manage possible side effects of chemotherapy?”. The above pointers show that you need not spend all your energy and get worried that you need to adopt overtly complex ways to seek treatment for chemotherapy procedure. Today many options for managing chemo side effects naturally have come up, these are perfectly safe and non-stressing. As mentioned above, you can take the reins in your hands to manage these side-effects to a large extent, and make the chemo-journey much better than it sounds.

It is important to remember that the chemo-you is not the real you. Post-treatment, with the passage of time, most side effects will wear off, and you will be back to your original healthy and cheerful self! So maybe you can think of it like this, make most of it while it lasts- go for that jazzy hair makeover that you always wanted and don that whacky looking wig to add a dash of difference to yourself, on the road to recovery!