Most people undergoing chemotherapy (chemo) will have chemo side effects. These can vary from person to person. Common chemo side effects include:
- Hair loss, also called alopecia
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neutropenia, a low number of white blood cells. White blood cells help you fight infections.
- Anemia, caused by a low number of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body.
- Thrombocytopenia, a low number of platelets. Platelets help the blood to clot to stop bleeding.
- Trouble with memory
- Mouth sores
Some chemo side effects can be serious. These may include febrile neutropenia, anemia, thrombocytopenia, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting. You can learn more about these serious chemo 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 strong chemo, you may be at risk for infection. There may be 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 risks of infection.
Talk With Your Doctor Now
Speak with your doctor early on to learn what can be done to help reduce your risk of chemo side effects. For most people, chemo side effects from chemotherapy will subside over time after they complete treatment. Some chemo side effects may take longer to subside than others, and some may not go away at all.
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.|
|His doctor and care team help him prepare to manage his chemo 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.
The Chemotherapy and Infection Discussion Guide can help you understand your
risk of infection
Infection can be a serious side effect of strong chemo. Find out the factors that affect your risk 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.