Women’s Health News Desk, August 14, 2016 ~ As part of our ongoing series about the talcum powder/ ovarian cancer debate- here is news now that you need to know! Nurse Practitioner, H. Eva Hvingelby, NP, PhD writes: What are the Common Chemotherapy Side Effects?
There is no chemotherapy treatment that only targets cancer, without damaging normal body cells as a side effect. Cancer cells started out as healthy and normal, but something caused them to mutate and develop abnormal DNA. Because there are still cellular similarities between cancer cells and healthy cells, chemotherapy drugs are able to affect both.
There are a number of common side effects most people who receive chemo, experience. These include:
-changes to digestion including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
-skin cells damage causing foot and hand rashes
-mouth sores can develop
-depending on the drug used, there may be hair loss
If the chemotherapy drugs of choice also affect bone marrow, production of red and white blood cells may be slowed. This can result in bleeding or bruising from even minor injuries, extreme fatigue, or an increased risk of infection.
The good news is that most of these side effects only occur while actively taking chemo drugs, and clear up within about 2 weeks once the chemo cycle is over. The other good news is there are many medications that help counteract the negative effects of chemo. For example nausea medications, anti-depressants and medications to help with blood cell production are available, as needed.
Longer Lasting Effects
In some cases, chemotherapy causes lasting damage to healthy body cells. For example, chemotherapy can be very hard on the liver and kidneys, and without adequate hydration these organs can be damaged. You may receive IV fluids while getting chemo to make sure your body can adequately filter the toxins.
Another side effect is damage to the peripheral nerves, particularly those in the hands and feet. Chemo can lead to a condition called neuropathy. Symptoms include pain, tingling, and numbness in the extremities. Some chemo drugs can also affect the nerve responsible for hearing.
Most chemotherapeutic medications are toxic to babies, so be sure you talk to your provider about the best possible course of action if you are pregnant, or how to avoid becoming pregnant during treatment.
It’s important to understand all the possible side effects, what signs to look for that you may be experiencing a more serious reaction, and what can be done to minimize these side effects. When talking to your doctor it’s important to ask about the likelihood of having long term complications from the chemo, versus the risk of dying from cancer if you decide against the treatment.