A person can experience a wide range of side effects associated with chemotherapy. You might know of other individuals receiving treatment or who have previously received treatment. Unless a person has a positive chemotherapy experience, you should do your best to ignore their version of things.
Understand that chemotherapy is a necessary process that helps you be successful in battling cancer. Each medication has various complications and you should make sure to engage in a detailed conversation with your medical provider about what you should expect during chemotherapy.
Common Types of Chemotherapy Drugs
Almita with cisplatin is one of the most common types of chemotherapy regimens approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat mesothelioma. Ideally, other chemotherapy drugs in the United States will also soon be approved for treatment. Pemetrexed is another type of well-tolerated drug. Chemotherapy can also have a substantial impact on healthy cells that rapidly divide in addition to malignant cells. The cells most impacted are those lining the GI tract and oral mucosa. When cells are adversely impacted, various side effects can be experienced.
Nausea and Vomiting
The most common type of side effect known to result from chemotherapy is nausea and vomiting, which are fortunately capable of being controlled with the medication category called antiemetics. You should request an antiemetic prescription before the day of administration so you can have the prescription filled and ready to be taken at home. Some medications require previous authorization by a physician’s staff before they can be available to you. As a result, advanced planning is often critical.
After taking anti-emetics, some people have experienced mouth sores, which can make eating as well as oral hygiene uncomfortable. Your physician can, fortunately, prescribe a mouthwash to reduce discomfort. Some people also benefit from the combination of baking soda and water, which neutralizes mouth acid. Both these techniques are helpful, which is why it’s a wise idea to inform your medical provider if you start to experience any sores or uneasiness in your oral cavity.
Nausea and Diarrhea
While some people get constipated from chemotherapy, others get diarrhea. Other times, this difficulty might be a side effect of an antiemetic that a person is prescribed. Both these symptoms are unpleasant, but medications exist to avoid these problems or reduce their severity. You should make sure to update your medical provider as well as the treating team as soon as you notice side effects so your medical provider can prescribe adequate medication to address these side effects.
Cisplatin is most routinely given in combination with pemetrexed, which can end up damaging a person’s kidney. An individual will be encouraged by a medical provider to consume additional fluids both leading up to and after therapy. A person will also be provided extra fluid through an IV to avoid damage at the time that a drug is received
Cisplatin is also known to commonly result in hearing loss. You should discuss any hearing challenges that you have before treatment with your doctor. Then, if you notice changes in hearing during therapy, you should make sure to promptly inform your medical provider because these signs might suggest a necessary modification of your regimen.
Another common complication of cisplatin is either peripheral nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy. These conditions can cause a loss in the feeling of a person’s extremities like the fingers and toes then advance upward as the disease progresses. Cisplatin is also common with various sensations including tingling, temperature changes, and mild-to-severe pain in a person’s palms.
If you either notice changes of these kinds or believe that they may be growing, you should not hesitate to discuss these terms with your medical provider and treatment team so an assessment can be made regarding whether you should continue taking cisplatin or begin taking an alternative medication.
Another medication, carboplatin, is similar to cisplatin and is sometimes substituted or offered as a replacement for individuals who begin to think that they can no longer cisplatin or developing side effects that might cause them to think so.
A problem in peripheral nerve function that results in various things like numbness, tingling, pain, swelling, and weakness of the muscle or peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy can be caused by medication or physical injury, infection, diseases like cancer or kidney failure, malnutrition, toxic substances, or medications including anti-cancer drugs.
Carboplatin is known to less often cause conditions including hearing loss, kidney damage, and neuropathy. Carboplatin, however, can also negatively impact a person’s bone marrow. Most individuals have questions as well as concerns about the effects that can result from taking chemotherapy. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Instead, a diverse range of side effects can result from chemotherapy medications.
Fatigue or tiredness is one of the most common types of side effects that results from chemotherapy. Many people discover that enduring treatment leaves them feeling tired most of the time or that they become tired while doing basic tasks.
To reduce or combat the side effects of tiredness, a person engages in various steps. Some helpful steps that you can follow include:
- Avoid activities or chores that you do not feel like doing
- Engage in light exercise because it can greatly boost your energy
- Receive an adequate amount of rest
- Request that your loves one help you perform daily living activities
- Consider requesting that your employee give you time off. Alternatively, you might work part-time until chemotherapy
Hair loss is a common result of chemotherapy, even though not everyone loses his or her hair during this process. Inquire with your care team if hair loss is a common side effect of medications that you are taking. If you end up losing your hair, this process will often start within a few weeks of when you begin treatment. If you lose a great amount of hair, this will often occur between 1 to 2 months. While people most often lose hair from their head, it’s also possible to lose hair from other body parts including the arms, face, and legs. Fortunately, hair loss is often temporary. Sometimes, after chemotherapy, hairs grow back in a different color or with a different texture.
Losing your hair can certainly be upsetting. That’s why you should speak to your care team if you find it challenging to deal with the aftermath of losing your hair. Your team appreciates how distressing hair loss can and will review your options. One option is that you might decide to wear a synthetic wig, which looks lifelike. Other hair loss options include wearing various pieces of headwear including a headscarf. It’s also sometimes to avoid hair loss while wearing a cold cap while receiving chemotherapy. A cold cap resembles a bicycle helmet and exists to cool your scalp during chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy lowers your body’s ability to combat infection, which increases the chance that you will end up with an infection that could endanger your life. You should take every precaution to protect yourself against infection. Some strategies that people utilize to guard against infection include:
- Routinely wash your hands with water and soap
- Staying away from intimate contact with individuals who have infections
- Receiving annual flu boosters and Covid-19 booster
Chemotherapy reduces the number of red blood cells, which disperse oxygen throughout the body. If your red blood cell count lowers too much, you will end up with anemia. Some symptoms of anemia include lack of energy, tiredness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. If you notice any symptoms of anemia, you should immediately notify your medical team who might be able to provide you with treatment to raise your number of red blood cells.
Raising the amount of iron in your diet can help to greatly lower your risk of anemia because iron helps the body combat red blood cells. Some of the foods that are known to be high in iron include:
- Meat including beef and pork
- Breakfast cereals
- Brown rice
- Dark-green leafy vegetables
- Dried fruit
Bleeding and Bruising
Chemotherapy can lower the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets help to stop substantial bleeding when you either cut or injured yourself. If you have a low platelet count, you might have easily bruised skin, substantial nosebleeds, and bleeding gums. Instruct your care team if you encounter these problems. You might need treatment to increase your platelet count. Chemotherapy sometimes irritates the lining of a person’s mouth, which is referred to as mucositis. Symptoms routinely develop a few days after the start of chemotherapy and can include: reduced taste senses, a dry mouth, and discomfort when eating or drinking. Not only does avoiding salty or spicy food help, but in most cases, medical professionals recommend laser therapy which stimulates healing and has proven to be effective in treating or preventing mucositis.
Loss of Appetite
You might lose your appetite while going through chemotherapy. Despite this, you should always do your best to drink adequate fluids and eat whatever you can. Many cancer patients have discovered that it is easier to eat smaller meals at more frequent than average intervals, snack on healthy food, eat light meals on treatment days and sip drinks slowly through a straw.
Skin and Nail Changes
Some chemotherapy medications result in both nail and skin changes. Some examples of how these changes might occur include dry skin, discolored portions of the skin, increase sunlight sensitivity, redness, and itchiness. You should speak with your care team if you have any difficulties with your skin. Your care team can inform you about various treatment options to alleviate conditions and protect your skin.
Additionally, chemotherapy can lead to brittle or flakey; Fortunately, your nails should return to normalcy after chemotherapy has ended. During chemotherapy, adding a moisturizer to your nails can help as well as using nail varnish to cover your nails during treatment.
Memory and Concentration Problems
Some people encounter difficulty with their-short term memory as well as attention and short-term chemotherapy. Unfortunately, cancer patients often discover that routine tasks take much longer than usual to perform. Fortunately, symptoms often improve after treatment is concluded. People have discovered that using note and post-its too have helped. Some of the other steps you can follow to avoid memory and concentration problems include eating well and making sure you are well-rested. During chemotherapy, some patients experience difficulty remembering things, focusing, or concentrating even call the condition, “chemo brain”.
Some people find that having chemotherapy leads to difficulty falling asleep at night. Sometimes, people end up with insomnia, which means that they wake up in the middle of the night and go back to sleep. This is referred to as insomnia. To help improve your sleep, you should follow some of the safety practices:
- Arrange regular times to go to bed and wake up
- Make sure to adequately rest before bedtime
- Use thick curtains, an eye mask, and ear plugs to avoid being woken
- Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants before sleep
- Do not watch TV on a phone, computer, or tablet before going to bed
Sex and Fertility Issues
Many people discover that they lose interest in sex during chemotherapy. While this loss in sex is often temporary, your sex drive often returns after treatment has concluded. Additionally, some chemotherapy medication reduces the odds of fertility in both sexes. While this loss of sexual interest is often temporary, sometimes it is permanent.
Before starting treatment, you should request whether your fertility will likely be impacted by treatment. If your fertility is at risk from treatment, your healthcare team will likely discuss your available options with you. Women are sometimes able to freeze their eggs to be used later through in vitro fertilization. Men can also have a sample of their sperm sampled so it can be used for artificial insemination.
You should do your best to avoid becoming pregnant or fathering a baby while you are receiving cancer treatment because chemotherapy medication could injure the child. Instead, if you plan on having intercourse while going through cancer treatment, you should utilize a method of contraception like a condom.
Diarrhea and Constipation
Many people discover that they have diarrhea or constipation a few days after they begin receiving chemotherapy. The team that oversees your care can recommend appropriate medications as well as changes to your diet that can improve your condition.
Having chemotherapy is a frustrating and uneasy experience for people. It’s common to feel anxious and be concerned about whether the treatment you are receiving will end up successful. Experiencing stress and anxiety can also greatly increase your chances of ending up with depression. Contact your care team directly if you’re facing challenges with emotionally handling the situation. Many people learn that joining a cancer group helps them talk about treatment. Discussing treatment with other people in a similar situation can frequently cause negative emotions like isolation and stress that a person encounters.
The Role of Side Effects During Treatment
Your oncologist can review which side effects are more common as well as which complications are less likely. Generally, more common side effects are more frightening than those that you might never experience. Remember, methods exist for dealing with the most common side effects so receiving chemotherapy need not be as daunting as it once was or as it is made out by the media and popular myth to be.
Few side effects are often noticeable in individuals who are receiving chemotherapy. While you might experience one or two side effects, it is not likely that you will experience all side effects. You and your oncologist should in advance discuss which symptoms you likely expect with your course of treatment. Some of the most common types of side effects that people are known to experience include nausea, fatigue, hair loss, and vomiting. Less common side effects that people can expect to face include diarrhea, neuropathy, and lowered blood counts. These side effects occur because the reproductive system, digestive tract, bone marrow, and hair follicles are damaged by medications used to fight cancer.
Be Alert to Severe Symptoms
While some side effects are less serious and best described as annoying, other symptoms are much more severe. The most severe symptoms can even prevent you from receiving chemotherapy as intended. This might lead to a delay in treatment or even completely change the path that you follow to receive chemotherapy. Despite the severity of these complications, You must report any side effects even if these changes lead to delayed or canceled therapy.
After a person has received the entirety of chemotherapy, and that individual’s cells have a chance to recover, most side effects will gradually disappear. Some side effects will dissolve quickly while other complications may take months before they disappear. Sometimes, side effects lead to permanent damage. The potential hardships brought on by side effects, however, should be weighed against the proven ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells.