Chemotherapy - Coping With Side Effects

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What chemotherapy side effects have you experienced? How do you cope with the side effects?

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Chemotherapy side effects

Side effects are problems caused by cancer treatment. Some common side effects from chemotherapy are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, mouth sores, and pain.

What causes side effects?

Chemotherapy is designed to kill fast-growing cancer cells. But it can also affect healthy cells that grow quickly. These include cells that line your mouth and intestines, cells in your bone marrow that make blood cells, and cells that make your hair grow. Chemotherapy causes side effects when it harms these healthy cells.

Will I get side effects from chemotherapy?

You may have a lot of side effects, some, or none at all. This depends on the type and amount of chemotherapy you get and how your body reacts. Before you start chemotherapy, talk with your doctor or nurse about which side effects to expect.

How long do side effects last?

How long side effects last depends on your health and the kind of chemotherapy you get. Most side effects go away after chemotherapy is over. But sometimes it can take months or even years for them to go away.

Sometimes, chemotherapy causes long-term side effects that do not go away. These may include damage to your heart, lungs, nerves, kidneys, or reproductive organs. Some types of chemotherapy may cause a second cancer years later. Ask your doctor or nurse about your chance of having long-term side effects.

What can be done about side effects?

Doctors have many ways to prevent or treat chemotherapy side effects and help you heal after each treatment session. Talk with your doctor or nurse about which ones to expect and what to do about them. Make sure to let your doctor or nurse know about any changes you notice - they may be signs of a side effect.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Carole44, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 29

I was diagnosed with HER-2 breast cancer and received Taxotere (then Abraxane when I had a reaction to the Taxotere). I also had carboplatin and Herceptin. I had six rounds of chemo and a year of Herceptin. I had many side effects from the chemo, including loss of hair, mouth sores, loss of taste, loose teeth, blurry vision, and peripheral neuropathy in my feet. I finished chemo six months ago and feel fine except for a little bit of blurry vision and continued peripheral neuropathy in my feet. Chemo was rough, but it was a small price to pay for my health. I am blessed to be cancer-free today!

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Comment from: kd, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: October 07

I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2/09. Opted for a double mastectomy 3/09. Found cancer in one lymph node and the "good" breast was full of "pre-cancer". Surgeon said I made the right decision to have the double. Started chemo 4/09. Very tired, body aches, loss of hair "adramyacin". Second round - taxol- very sick and went to hospital for 8 days. Red, white cells and potassium very low. Two blood transfusions. Lost eyelashes and eyebrows. Stopped the taxol (I wanted to quit chemo altogether). Tried a new chemo, "abraxcin". Six treatments once a week and started getting sick again. Stopped chemo. Hair starting to grow again. Will be starting "Cytoxn" four treatment over eight weeks. Hope I can tolerate it. Would do it again to insure that any cancer cells will be killed off by the chemo (if it doesn't kill me first!!) It will soon be over and I dream of having energy again.

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