Side Effects of Chemotherapy

There are over 50 different types of chemotherapy drugs are used in chemotherapy treatment. Each of these drug kills the cancerous cells in different manner and affects the healthy cells in different ways. This is why each of them produces different side effects. Primarily chemotherapy drugs affect specific areas of the body where cell growth rate is the highest, such as mouth, skin, digestive system, hair follicles, bone marrow, etc. So, the side effects are mostly prevalent in these areas. In this article, we will shed light on a general overview of chemotherapy side effects as; focusing on in-depth understanding of specific side effects caused by specific drug is beyond the scope of this article.

Effects of Chemotherapy on Bone Marrow and Blood
The bone marrow is responsible for the production of three types of blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Chemotherapy Side Effects on Bone MarrowAt the initial stage of the production, these cells reside within the bone marrow where they are nurtured and then become mature enough to come into the blood stream. Since bone marrow is affected due to chemotherapy drug administration, the production of blood cells get inhibited. This causes few inevitable side effects such as an increased risk of infection, anemia, increased bleeding and bruising. Since the production of white blood cells is adversely affected with to the administration of chemotherapy drugs, people are at higher risk for getting infection. At this time, many patients are advised to take antibiotics as an integral part of their chemotherapy treatment.

Since the production of red blood cells also gets hampered, people on chemotherapy treatment are at an increased risk of developing anemic symptoms. Common symptoms may involve lethargy, fatigue, and shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, muscle ache and joint aches. Since blood clotting largely depends on the production of platelets, bleeding becomes a common issue after administering chemotherapy drugs as the production of platelets is highly disrupted.

Effects on Hair, Nail and Skin
Although there are certain chemotherapy drugs that do not cause hair loss or do only to a slight extent or a small duration, there are some that affect quite severely and cause a massive hair loss. Most commonly it is seen that in the chemotherapy session hair follicles become weak and hairs break off from the scalp itself. In most of the cases, the hair loss problem starts not less than two or three weeks after the treatment begins. Not only does it affect the scalp hair, the problem is also common in underarm, body and public hair as well. However, in most of the cases, this hair fall problem is temporary and patients usually get recovered as soon as they finish with their chemotherapy treatment.

Effect on Digestive System
Chemotherapy treatment also adversely affects the digestive system and causes nausea and vomiting. However, with the advent of medical science, in recent days nausea and vomiting are less common issues, which were far common in old days. In such cases, doctors generally prescribe advise anti-sickness drugs which once administered provide the patients a sense of relief from their discomforts.