Side Effects from chemotherapy vary. Among the more common side effects are feeling tired (fatigued, lethargy), nausea, diarrhea or constipation, and body hair loss (due to the effect of the drugs on the DNA of hair follicles). Every cancer patient responds differently to the combination of chemotherapy drugs.
"Chemotherapy" has been used for more that fifty years, but many changes have occurred in the types of drugs used, dosage, and frequency. Chemotherapy is sometimes recommended prior to surgery to shrink the tumor to make it more feasible for the surgeon to remove the entire tumor during surgery. There are more than fifty different chemotherapy drugs and the drugs are used in different proportions and combinations based on the specific cancer diagnostic information. In general, chemotherapy drugs affects the DNA of the cells by interfering with cell duplication. These drugs affect both the cancerous and the healthy cell DNA. The healthy cells that are particularly susceptible to chemotherapeutic drugs are those which multiply quickly, like the skin (including body, facial, and head hair), gastrointestinal tract, and bone marrow. (Burhansstipanov, 1997)
What is very important to remember is that these side effects are temporary and gradually go away after the chemotherapy treatments end.
Examples of side effects, of which most chemotherapy patients experience at least a few, include the following:|
How You Can Help the Cancer Patient Before the Chemotherapy Appointment
How You can Help the Cancer Patient During the Chemotherapy
Linda B’s Editorial. When you go in for a chemotherapy appointment, there are usually fairly comfortable chairs around the room, a television and/or radio and reading lamps. There are usually other people in the same room all receiving chemotherapy. The providers connect the bottle of chemotherapy drugs to the patient through an IV (intravenous tube) so that the medicine goes directly into the blood stream. Chemotherapy "sessions" may be as short at 1 hour one day a week, or can be 9 hours three times a week. Different types of drugs are used to treat different stages of cancer. The length of each session and type of drugs used for chemotherapy depend on the stage of cancer and type of cancer cell (e.g., histologic grade and stage). This means the person sitting next to the "loved one" may also be a breast cancer patient, but may be receiving totally different medications within their chemotherapy.
it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I didn’t get as sick as I thought I was going to get. It wasn’t fun, but it was worth it all. Um, my husband went with me and when I did the chemo he would stand behind me, you know, with his hands on my shoulders. And it was really neat because I got sick and he got sick at the same time. Um, when I started losing my hair, he lost his hair too. And everything I went through when I’d go in to get my chemo, I guess it was just like the smell of the, it could have just been the alcohol that they, you know, clean before they start your chemo. Ah, I don’t know what was the key, my husband would get sick as soon as we went in. His face would turn gray, but he stayed there. And the doctor would say, "Mr. Trijillo you don’t need to stand there behind her, you know." And he would say, "I know I don’t have to, I want to." So I had a lot of support, and ah, it was good to know that so many people loved me and that were behind me and that were pulling for me and, um, I just thank the Lord that, I feel like I am healed.Evelyn Trujillo (Yaqui)
CI went back (to work) first part of March and I still had two more treatments, and I was still, well I wasn’t bald but I still had to wear that wig and the people that I work with were really nice and were understanding and that helped a lot. And the supervisor came down. To be around people and not to be home, if you get sick, it uh, it helped to be around people. Carolyn Spotted Horse (Crow)
And my brother ... was something else, ... he says, "Well Sis, how are you doing on your with your chemotherapy," and I say,"I’m doing fine. Some days I’ll come home and I’ll go to sleep for about three days, and there are other times I’ll come home and I’ll clean my house and I’ll go shopping." It just depended you know. And he says, "are you bald yet?" And I say, "no," and he says, "oh shucks, I always wanted a bald sister." And I say, "no, the wig is still up in the closet, you know."
Ruth Demitt (Athabascan/Tanacross)
How you can Help the Cancer Patient After Her Chemotherapy
General Supportive Care throughout Chemotherapy