Sunday, February 18, 2024

Side Effects Of Chemo Treatment

Mouth And Throat Sores

Managing Side Effects of Chemotherapy, with Jyoti D. Patel, MD

Painful sores can make it hard to eat, and they can get infected.

Ask your doctor about pain medicines and ointments. If you start having dry mouth, they might recommend treatments to help you make more saliva.

Other tips:

  • Get any dental work done at least 2 weeks before you start chemo.
  • Brush your teeth and tongue after every meal and before bed with a soft toothbrush or cotton swabs.
  • Suck on ice chips right before or during a chemo session.

Why Does Chemo Cause Side Effects

Cancer cells tend to grow fast, and chemo drugs kill fast-growing cells. But because these drugs travel throughout the body, they can affect normal, healthy cells that are fast-growing, too. Damage to healthy cells causes side effects. Side effects are not always as bad as you might expect, but it’s normal to worry about this part of cancer treatment.

The normal cells most likely to be damaged by chemo are:

  • Blood-forming cells in the bone marrow
  • Cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system

Some chemo drugs can damage cells in the heart, kidneys, bladder, lungs, and nervous system. Sometimes, you can take medicines with the chemo to help protect your bodys normal cells. There are also treatments to help relieve side effects.

Doctors try to give chemo at levels high enough to treat cancer, while keeping side effects at a minimum. They also try to avoid using multiple drugs that have similar side effects.

During Your First Chemotherapy Infusion

Plan to spend the day at the hospital or treatment center. When you arrive, a healthcare provider will check your vital signs, height and weight. Youll probably have blood drawn as well. This information helps the healthcare team provide the proper dose of chemotherapy drugs.

Expect to wait after your initial tests and blood draw. Chemotherapy medication cannot be prepared in advance it must be mixed to exact specifications and that takes time.

When the healthcare team is ready, youll be settled in an infusion area. A nurse will access your catheter or port or insert an IV and may administer some IV fluids and medication. If you have any questions about whats happening, ask. Staff members want you to feel comfortable and informed.

Your chemotherapy drugs will be administered through your IV, port or catheter. You might not feel anything unusual at all, or you may experience a flushed feeling or metallic taste in your mouth. Depending on your specific treatment protocol, additional medications that prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting may also be administered. Report any symptoms to your nurse. She or he will be watching you closely anyway, especially during your first treatment. In fact, expect to stay awhile after your infusion is complete. Staff wont let you go home until theyre sure youre feeling OK.

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Disadvantages Of Oral Chemotherapy

One of the biggest disadvantages of oral chemotherapy is the fact that its not administered in a hospital or hospital-like setting, or by a healthcare professional. This means that users may run the risk of forgetting to take their medication or doing so incorrectly.

According to an older 2012 study , the longer a persons oral chemotherapy treatment lasts, the more likely a person is to eventually discontinue use of the drug without the guidance of their doctor. This can lead to treatment being less effective, worsening side effects, and high dosages if pills are taken closely together.

One other disadvantage of oral chemotherapy is that the pills can be extremely dangerous. According to the

Before starting chemotherapy, youll have an opportunity to consult with a doctor. This is a good time to ask questions and discuss your concerns.

Susan G Komen Resources

Side effects of Chemotherapy

If youve been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or feel too overwhelmed to know where to begin to gather information, Susan G. Komen® has a Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Chemotherapy and Side Effects resource that might help.

You can download, print and write on the resource at your next doctors appointment. Or you can download, type and save it on your computer, tablet or phone during a telehealth visit using an app such as Adobe. Plenty of space and a notes section are provided to jot down answers to the questions.

There are other Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources on many different breast cancer topics you may wish to download.

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Sexuality And Intimacy Issues

Interest in sexual intimacy often decreases for chemotherapy patients for many reasons, including additional stress and the side effects of treatment. Patients need to maintain a positive self-image during this time and sustain open communication with their partners. When a patient is ready to engage in sexual activity, she should consider taking the following actions:

  • Make time for rest before and after sexual activity to preserve energy.
  • Experiment to find comfortable positions and avoid those that will tire her quickly.

About Side Effects Of Chemotherapy

There are more than 100 different chemotherapy drugs. This page tells you about the side effects that they may cause. But different drugs cause different side effects. Your doctor or nurse will tell you about specific side effects of your own treatment.

Its important to remember that you probably won’t get every side effect listed. For some people the effects are mild. Sometimes the side effects of chemo can be unpleasant, but it can help to remember that:

  • most side effects are short term
  • theyll begin to go once the treatment has finished
  • you can have medicines to reduce most side effects

Let your nurse or doctor know if you have side effects that are troubling you.

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Pain Or Nerve Changes

Some of the drugs used for chemotherapy may cause changes in your nervous system. These changes can be temporary or permanent. Other changes in the body can cause pain as well. It is important to talk with your doctor or nurse about any pain or nerve changes you may be having. Your cancer treatment center may have a pain or palliative care clinic or team that you can work with to manage your pain.

Questions To Ask The Health Care Team

Cancer Patient Warns of Chemotherapy Side Effects

Consider asking your health care team these questions:

  • What physical side effects are likely based on my specific chemotherapy plan? When will they likely begin?

  • How can these side effects be prevented or managed?

  • Who should I tell when a side effect appears or gets worse? How can I contact them during regular office hours and after hours?

  • Are there specific side effects I should tell the doctor about right away?

  • Would it be helpful for me to track my side effects? What are ways I can do that?

  • Who can I talk with if I’m feeling anxious or upset about having chemotherapy?

  • If I’m having side effects that affect my nutrition, can you recommend an oncology dietitian?

  • What are other ways I can take care of myself during the treatment period?

  • Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?

  • Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have a child? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist before cancer treatment begins?

  • What are the potential long-term effects of this type of chemotherapy?

  • If I’m worried about managing the financial costs of cancer care, who can help me?

  • After chemotherapy is completed, what will my follow-up care plan be?

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How To Store Chemotherapy Pills

Oral chemotherapy pills may have certain requirements for storage regarding temperature. Its important to make sure to keep your medication stored at the temperature recommended.

Also, make sure to keep your medication in a dry place. Certain areas, such as the bathroom, may be damp and cause the medication to break down. Also, keep oral chemotherapy pills sealed and away from childrens reach.

You and a doctor must consider many factors when deciding on oral versus traditional chemotherapy. This is how they compare with each other on some key points:

Oral chemotherapy Traditional chemotherapy
Convenience You can take it at home in a matter of seconds, so theres less disruption to your life. It requires a visit to a doctors office or clinic for a treatment that may take hours. Over time, this can become burdensome.
Comfort Its less invasive and causes little to no physical discomfort when you take it. Getting IV medications can be uncomfortable or even painful. It can take several hours and may increase your anxiety levels.
Compliance You have to keep track of dosing and administration, making sure to take it exactly as directed, usually several times per day. Your healthcare team takes care of dosing and administration.
Cost Your health insurance plan might list it as a pharmacy benefit instead of a medical benefit. This could increase out-of-pocket costs. Major medical benefits usually cover it.

Coping With Hair Loss

Hair loss can be upsetting. Talk to your care team if you’re finding it difficult to cope with losing your hair.

They understand how distressing it can be and can support you and discuss your options with you.

For example, you may decide you want to wear a wig. Synthetic wigs are available free of charge on the NHS for some people, but you’ll usually have to pay for a wig made from real hair.

Other options include headwear, such as a headscarf.

Read more about advice about cancer and hair loss.

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What To Ask A Doctor Before Starting Oral Chemotherapy

Here are some questions you may want to ask a doctor:

  • Whats each drug expected to do?
  • Exactly how should I take this medication?
  • Can the pills be broken or crushed? Do they need to be taken with a meal?
  • Are there any particular foods I should avoid while taking this medication?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • What happens if I throw up after taking it?
  • How should I handle and store the drug?
  • What side effects can I expect from this drug, and what should I do if I have them? What are the warning signs of serious problems?
  • How often should I check in with your practice? When will I need blood tests or scans?
  • How long will I need to take it?
  • How will we know its working?

Swelling In The Arms And Legs

Chemotherapy Drugs Cost

Swelling or fluid retention may occur, particularly in the arms and/or legs. Swelling is most common in the feet and ankles due to the effects of gravity. This side effect is most common with the use of some taxane chemotherapy drugs.Arm and leg swelling caused by chemotherapy is not the same as lymphoedema and rarely requires any specific treatment. However, treatment may be prescribed if the swelling is severe.The risk of arm or leg swelling can be reduced by giving another medication before chemotherapy. Symptoms will slowly improve once treatment is over.

Some women feel vague or mildly confused or have memory problems while having chemotherapy. This is sometimes called chemo brain or chemo fog. Symptoms can last for some months after treatment is over.The causes of these feelings are being studied.

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How Long Do Side Effects From Chemotherapy Last

You may find that some side effects come and go surprisingly quickly. But it may take months for you to completely get over other side effects. Some side effects subside between treatments and some, especially serious ones, may last the rest of your life.

Common reactions such as nausea or vomiting and fatigue may start as soon as the first treatment. Others, such as a second cancer, may not appear for many months or years.

Dont get discouraged. Theres lots that you and your cancer treatment team may do to prevent and reduce side effects of chemotherapy when you work together.

Knowing as much as possible about the different side effects and what to expect may put you more in control and at ease.

Fatigue: A feeling of utter exhaustion, or fatigue, is the most common side effect of chemotherapy. Scientists dont fully understand why chemotherapy causes extra fatigue in cancer patients, but they suspect its the bodys response to having to work harder to rid itself of the toxic substances left behind. Chemotherapy also may wreak havoc on sleep patterns, making it hard for you to get the healing rest you need.

Many patients seem to experience the most chemo-induced fatigue midway through their treatments. Fatigue seems to decrease when treatments stop, but it may take months after the last treatment until you feel like yourself again.

To help manage fatigue:

Some ways to manage hair loss:

These factors also may increase your risk of nausea and vomiting:

To manage:

To manage:

Talk With Your Doctor Now

Speak with your doctor early on to learn what can be done to help reduce your risk of . For most people, from chemotherapy will subside over time after they complete treatment. Some may take longer to subside than others, and some may not go away at all.

If you have questions, prepare a list to refer to next time you see your doctor. Be sure to write down your doctor’s answers and advice. You can review these notes at home. It may also help to bring a family member to listen and take notes for you. may help you start the discussion.

A Closer Look: Bill*
Bill learns that his doctors think he needs another round of chemo.
The last time he went through chemo, he developed serious .
His doctor and care team help him prepare to manage his .

*This is a fictional case study based on chemo patient experiences. Your experience is unique. Your doctor and care team will create a plan that will best treat your type of cancer and manage your .

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Appetite And Weight Changes

You might find that youâre less hungry than usual or not hungry at all. Some people feel full on just a little food. These changes can make you lose weight and keep you from getting the right nutrition. You may also lose muscle, making you weaker.

Talk to your doctor about appetite changes before they slow your recovery or get in the way of your treatment.

Some tips to manage appetite changes include:

  • Eat several small meals a day.
  • Snack whenever you feel hungry.
  • Choose foods that are high in calories and protein such as dried fruits, nuts, cheese, yogurt, eggs, cereal, ice cream, and nutrition shakes.
  • Cut down on nausea by eating cold food.
  • Add spices or condiments if food tastes too bland.
  • Do some light exercise about an hour before a meal. Your doctor can help you find an exercise program thatâs right for you.

Why Side Effects Happen

Long-Term Side Effects of Chemotherapy | Collateral Damage: An Overview

Chemotherapy works on active cells. Active cells are cells that are growing and dividing into more of the same type of cell. Cancer cells are active, but so are some healthy cells. Cells commonly affected by chemotherapy are those in the bone marrow, mouth, digestive system, reproductive system, and hair follicles.

Most chemotherapy treatments inhibit cell division, and, therefore, will affect not only cancer cells but also normal cells that undergo active division like cells of the gastro-intestinal tract, for example.

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Skin And Nail Changes

Some drugs can affect your skin. It may become dry or slightly discoloured. Chlorine in swimming pool water can make this worse. Your skin may also be more sensitive to sunlight during and after treatment. Tell your cancer doctor or nurse if you develop any skin changes or rashes.

Your nails may grow more slowly or break more easily. You may notice white lines across your nails, or other changes to their shape or colour. Once the treatment has ended, any changes usually take a few months to grow out.

How Chemotherapy Causes Side Effects

Chemotherapy damages dividing cells. Cancer cells divide much more often than most normal cells. So chemotherapy damages cancer cells and can destroy them.

But some types of normal cells divide very often too. This happens in tissues that need a steady supply of new cells, such as the skin, hair and nails. Chemotherapy can also damage these cells, and this causes side effects. But the damaged normal tissues can repair themselves and recover.

These are some of the most common side effects:

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Other Side Effects Of Chemotherapy

Effects on the nerves

Some chemotherapy drugs can affect the nerves in your hands or feet. This can cause tingling or numbness, or a feeling like pins and needles. This is called peripheral neuropathy. You may also find it hard to fasten buttons or do other fiddly tasks.

It is important to tell your doctor if this happens. The dose of the chemotherapy drug may need to be changed if it gets worse. Usually, peripheral neuropathy gradually gets better when chemotherapy is over, but sometimes it is permanent.

Effects on the nervous system

Some drugs can make you feel anxious, restless, dizzy, sleepy or have headaches. If you have any of these, it is important to tell your cancer doctor or nurse. They may be able to prescribe medicines that can help with some of these effects.

Some people find that chemotherapy makes them forgetful or unable to concentrate during or after treatment. Doctors sometimes call this cancer-related cognitive changes but it is sometimes known as chemo brain.

Changes in how your kidneys work

Some chemotherapy drugs can affect how well your kidneys work . Before each treatment, your kidney function will be checked with a blood test. You may be given fluids through a drip before and after the treatment. This is to keep your kidneys working normally. The nurses may ask you to drink plenty of fluids. They may also ask you to record what you drink and the amount of urine you pass.

Changes in hearing

Increased risk of blood clots

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