Banner Health Services  

Chemotherapy's Side Effects


Aida E. Amado, RN, is a clinical educator at Banner Baywood Medical Center

Question: What are the side effects of chemotherapy and how can I best prepare for my treatments?

Cancer cells are always trying to multiply. They do this by splitting into two and then into four and those four split into eight and so on. Traditional chemotherapy works on destroying the cancer cells as they are trying to split and multiply. Chemo destroys both cancer (bad) cells and normal (good) cells since many of our normal cells in our bodies are usually multiplying to replenish themselves.

Side effects occur mostly because of how the chemotherapy affects the normal (good) cells. Major side affects are as follows:

  • Stomach problems: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue-chemotherapy does make you feel tired-staying active helps relieve some of the fatigue.
  • Skin problems: dryness, rashes and sun intolerances.
  • Bone marrow suppression-weakened immune system, anemia, and bleeding tendencies due to low platelet counts.

Preparing for chemotherapy requires you to prepare both mentally and physically. The thought of chemotherapy can be frightening to many people. The way we handle the side effects of chemotherapy today are very different than the way we treated those side effects 10 years ago. Advances in medications to help with chemotherapy side effects have made chemotherapy much easier on patients.

It is important to remember that each day is a new day. Eating well and staying well hydrated are an important part of every day while you are on a chemotherapy regimen.  Also, staying active is important. Take small walks around your home and yard throughout the day to help maintain a good level of activity.

Page Last Modified: 02/22/2010
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