Most people undergoing chemo will have side effects. These can vary from person to person. Common chemo side effects include:

Some side effects can be serious enough to create delays in treatment. These may include febrile neutropenia, anemia, thrombocytopenia, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting. You can learn more about these serious side effects on this site or by talking to your doctor. Preparing to manage chemo side effects is a good way to increase the odds that you get the most out of your treatment plan.

Try to Avoid Infections

During chemo, you may be vulnerable to infection. There are ways you can help protect yourself. Here are some things you can do:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. This is especially important after you use the toilet and before cooking and eating.
  • Avoid people who have diseases—such as colds or the flu—that you can catch.
  • Clean cuts and scrapes right away with warm water and soap. Cover with a bandage. Ask your doctor and care team if using antibiotic creams is right for you.
  • Avoid crowds where germs can be rampant.
  • Be careful not to cut or nick yourself. Use an electric shaver instead of a razor. Wear protective gloves when gardening or cleaning to avoid cuts and scrapes.

Talk with your healthcare professional for more advice about how to reduce your chances of getting an infection.

Talk With Your Doctor Now

Keeping on target with your chemo treatment schedule is a good goal. It may help you meet your overall treatment goals of killing, stopping, or slowing cancer cells. Speak with your doctor early on to learn what can be done to help reduce your risk of side effects. Some side effects can develop right after the first dose of chemotherapy but can also occur at any time during your treatment. These side effects may lead to hospital stays and delays in your treatment plan. If your treatment does get put on hold, you and your doctor can decide how best to proceed.

If you have questions, prepare a list to refer to next time you see your doctor. Be sure to write down your doctor's answers and advice. You can review these notes at home. It may also help to bring a family member to listen and take notes for you. Questions you can ask your doctor may help you start the discussion.

A Closer Look: Bill*
Bill learns that his doctors think he needs another round of chemo.
The last time he went through chemo, he developed serious side effects and had to spend a few weeks in the hospital, which interrupted his treatment.
Bill asks his doctor what can be done to help him get through the rest of his chemo without delays.
Bill's doctor talks to him about how to manage his side effects.
His doctor and care team help him prepare to manage the side effects.

*This is a fictional case study based on chemo patient experiences. Your experience is unique. Your doctor and care team will create a plan that will best treat your type of cancer and manage your chemo side effects.

Learn more about meeting your treatment goals.

  • The Chemotherapy and Infection Discussion Guide can help you understand your
    chance for infection

    Infection can be a serious result of chemo. Find out the factors that affect your chance of infection. Simply answer a few questions, and then print your results to share with your doctor.

    Use the Chemotherapy and Infection Discussion Guide to find out more.

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