CANCER: THE SIDE EFFECTS OF CHEMOTHERAPY

As you can see, there are a diverse range of side effects involved with the application of chemotherapy medications. Side effects vary according to the dosage being used, the type of chemotherapy drug employed and the length of treatment. Here is a more comprehensive description of the most common side effects experienced today:

Constipation/Diarrhoea

These are not common side effects, yet they do occur. Anti-nausea drugs and steroids used during chemotherapy can cause constipation. It may take a few days after completing treatment before your bowels return to normal. Diarrhoea may also occur as the microflora in the bowel is destroyed and the microvilli (hair-like projections along the bowel wall which are essential for proper absorption) are damaged. In fact, the microvilli and absorption of nutrients can be compromised for up to two years following chemotherapy, unless a natural, rejuvenation program is followed.

Effects on the Cells

Most chemotherapeutic drugs suppress bone marrow function and the formation of blood cells. A decrease in red blood cells can make you anaemic and you may feel tired, lethargic, dizzy and breathless. If this occurs, your doctor will suggest a blood transfusion to build up your stores of red blood cells.

A decrease in white blood cells can lead to infections. If you have any signs of infection such as fever over 38 degrees, chills, coughs or a burning feeling when passing urine, call your doctor immediately. The doctor usually prescribes a hormone injection to increase white blood cells. This involves injecting a hormone into your stomach or abdomen over a 10 day period, to push white blood cells out of the body’s bone marrow. Intense bone pain and aching joints are associated with this. Other options may include a delay in your next treatment or a reduced dose of chemotherapy in the next course.

If your platelet count is low, bleeding may occur. Platelets are needed to clot the blood. If you are bruising easily, bleeding from gums, nose or bowel, or notice blood in your urine, consult your doctor immediately. A platelet transfusion is given to counteract this.

Effects on the Mouth

Chemotherapy drugs affect the cells lining the mouth and throat, often causing soreness, dry mouth, mouth ulcers, difficulty in swallowing, furry/slimy/coated tongue, pimples on the tongue and a metallic taste in the mouth. Difficulty in swallowing or chewing can lead to a loss of weight and malnutrition and will slow down the recovery.

Fluid Retention

Fluid retention is a common side effect caused by use of anti-nausea drugs and steroids. It is also inevitable, with so much fluid being put into the body with treatment. Look for natural diuretics in foods, herbs and supplements to remove unwanted fluid. Drink plenty of water.

Hair Loss

Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. This side effect is only temporary and following cessation of treatment your hair will tend to grow back healthier, shinier, thicker and often curly. Hair loss can occur at any time during treatment, but is most likely to happen within the first three to four weeks. It occurs as the drugs impair the proliferation of the hair follicle. Many people will experience hair thinning, not complete hair loss.

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