Problems Related to Chemotherapy
Examples of Side Effects
- Hair loss—Chemotherapy can cause the hair on your head, as well as other parts of your body, to fall out. Hair loss can happen within 2-3 weeks of starting chemotherapy. Hair typically grows back a few months after the treatment has ended.
- Loss of appetite—While undergoing chemotherapy, you may not feel like eating. This may due to medicines that you are taking or other side effects, like nausea or pain.
- Nausea and vomiting—You may feel sick to your stomach and vomit or try to vomit even if your stomach has no food in it. Nausea and vomiting can happen during or right after chemotherapy treatment. In some cases, you may feel sick days later.
- Flu-like symptoms—You may feel like you have the flu. This may be especially true if you are receiving chemotherapy in combination with biological therapy. The symptoms, which can last 1-3 days, may include muscle and joint aches, headache, tiredness, nausea, slight fever, chills, and poor appetite.
- Fluid retention—Your body may retain fluid because of hormonal changes from the therapy, the drugs themselves, or the cancer. Retaining fluid can cause swelling or puffiness in your face, hands, feet, or abdomen. In serious cases, fluid can build up around heart and lungs.
- Eye problems—If you have contact lenses, chemotherapy may make wearing them painful. Other eye problems related to chemotherapy include blurry vision and watery eyes.
- Fatigue—You may feel tired or extremely exhausted. Fatigue may be related to the chemotherapy drugs, emotional strain (including depression and anxiety), or other conditions that you may have, like anemia or an infection.
- Cognitive problems—You may have difficulty remembering things or feel confused at times. This can be due to not getting enough sleep or taking certain chemotherapy drugs or other medicines.
Talk to Your Doctor
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov/
BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/default.htm/
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca/
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Published June 2011. Accessed June 25, 2012.
Understanding chemotherapy: a guide for patients and families. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003025-pdf.pdf. Updated March 17, 2011. Accessed June 25, 2012.
What are common side effects. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/TreatmentTypes/Chemotherapy/UnderstandingChemotherapyAGuideforPatientsandFamilies/understanding-chemotherapy-common-side-effects. Updated March 17, 2011. Accessed June 25, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 06/2012
- Update Date: 06/25/2012