Friday, October 17, 2014

Chemotherapy and it's side effects

Chemotherapy side effects
Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, but they can also damage healthy cells. This damage to healthy cells causes side effects. Different cells and tissues in the body tolerate chemotherapy differently. Chemotherapy drugs have the greatest effect on rapidly dividing cells, such as blood cells in the bone marrow, cells lining the mouth and gastrointestinal (GI) tract and hair follicle cells.

What causes side effects?
Cancer cells tend to grow fast, and chemo drugs kill fast-growing cells. But because these
drugs travel throughout the body, they can affect normal, healthy cells that are fast-growing, too. Damage to healthy cells causes side effects. Side effects are not always as bad as you might expect, but many people worry about this part of cancer treatment.
The normal cells most likely to be damaged by chemo are blood-forming cells in the bone marrow; hair follicles; and cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system. Some chemo drugs can damage cells in the heart, kidneys, bladder, lungs, and nervous system. In some cases, medicines can be given with the chemo to help protect the body’s normal cells.
What should I know about side effects?

  • Every person doesn’t get every side effect, and some people get few, if any.
  • The severity of side effects (how “bad” they are) varies greatly from person to person. Be sure to talk to your doctor and nurse about which side effects are most common with your chemo, how long they might last, how bad they might be, and when you should call the doctor’s office about them.
  • Your doctor may give you medicines to help prevent some side effects before they happen.
  • Some types of chemo cause long-term side effects, like heart or nerve damage or fertility problems. Still, many people have no long-term problems from chemo. Ask your doctor about the long-term risks of the chemo drugs you’re getting.

While side effects can be unpleasant, they must be weighed against the need to kill the cancer cells.


How long do side effects last?
Most side effects slowly go away after treatment ends because the healthy cells recover over time. The time it takes to get over some side effects and regain energy varies from person to person. It depends on many factors, including your overall health and the drugs you were given.
Many side effects go away fairly quickly, but some may take months or even years to completely go away. Sometimes the side effects can last a lifetime, such as when chemo causes long-term damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or reproductive organs. Certain types of chemo sometimes cause delayed effects, such as a second cancer that may show up many years later.

People often become discouraged about how long their treatment lasts or the side effects they have. If you feel this way, talk to your doctor. You may be able to change your medicine or treatment schedule. Your doctor or nurse also may be able to suggest ways to reduce any pain and discomfort you have.
What are common side effects?
Most people worry about whether they will have side effects from chemo, and, if so, what they’ll be like. Here’s a review of some of the more common side effects caused by chemotherapy. We also share some tips on how you can manage them.
Side effects can happen any time during, immediately after, or a few days or weeks after chemotherapy. Most side effects go away when chemotherapy is over. However, some side effects may continue after treatment is over because it takes time for healthy cells to recover from the effects of chemotherapy drugs. Late side effects can occur months or years after treatment. Some side effects may last a long time or be permanent. It is important to report side effects to the healthcare team. Doctors may also grade (measure) how severe certain side effects are. Sometimes chemotherapy treatments need to be adjusted if side effects are severe.

The following are the most common side effects that people tend to experience with chemotherapy. Some people may experience all, some or none of these side effects. Others may experience different side effects.
1.       Bone marrow suppression
2.       Sore mouth
3.       Inflamed mucous membranes
4.       Nausea and vomiting
5.       Loss of appetite
6.       Changes in taste and smell
7.       Diarrhea
8.       Dehydration
9.       Constipation
10.   Fatigue
11.   Flu-like symptoms
12.   Hair loss
13.   Skin changes
14.   Eye changes
15.   Pain
16.   Cystitis
17.   Bedwetting
18.   Weight gain
19.   Pain at the injection site
20.   Inflamed vein
21.   Allergic reactions
22.   Fluid retention
23.   Organ damage
24.   Second cancers

Side effects can occur with any type of treatment, but not everyone has them or experiences them in the same way. Side effects of chemotherapy will depend mainly on:
·         the type of drug
·         the dose
·         how the drug is given
·         the person’s overall health

       Reference:
1.       http://www.cancer.org
2.       http://www.cancer.ca

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