Side effects of cancer treatment

Also known as: Side effects of chemotherapy, Cancer treatment side effects, Chemotherapy side effects
The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the medicines you receive. As with other types of treatment, side effects vary from person to person.

In general, chemotherapy affects rapidly growing and dividing cells. These include blood cells, which fight infection, cause the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When blood cells are affected by chemotherapy, you are more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, and have less energy during treatment and for some time afterward.

Hair cells and cells that line the digestive tract also divide rapidly. After treatment with chemotherapy, you may lose your hair and have other side effects, such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth sores.

Many side effects caused by chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting, can now be controlled. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to manage nausea and vomiting. Side effects generally are short-term problems. They gradually go away during the recovery part of the chemotherapy cycle or after the treatment is over.

Fatigue is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Some people notice that they feel a little more tired than usual, and other people feel completely out of energy. After treatment is finished, this fatigue goes away over time.

Some people have a mild decline in the ability to think, learn, reason, and remember (cognitive function) during the first years after some types of chemotherapy. Cognitive function can take a few years to return to normal.