Chemotherapy Side Effects

Patients who undergo chemotherapy experience side effects to varying degrees. We encourage you to learn about the common side effects and talk to your doctor or nurse about how to manage them.

Chemotherapy is designed to kill fast-growing cancer cells. But it can also affect healthy cells that grow quickly. These include cells that line your mouth and intestines, cells in your bone marrow that make blood cells, and cells that make your hair grow. Chemotherapy causes side effects when it harms these healthy cells.

You may have a lot of side effects, some, or none at all. This depends on the type and amount of chemotherapy you get and how your body reacts. Before you start chemotherapy, talk with your doctor or nurse about which side effects to expect.

Common side effects of chemotherapy are:

  • Anemia
  • Appetite changes
  • Bleeding
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Infection
  • Infertility
  • Mouth and throat changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nervous system changes
  • Pain
  • Sexual changes
  • Skin and nail changes
  • Urinary, kidney, and bladder changes

How long side effects last depends on your health and the kind of chemotherapy you get. Most side effects go away after chemotherapy is over. But sometimes it can take months or even years for them to go away.

(Source: National Cancer Institute, "Chemotherapy and You")

Managing Side Effects

Talk to your doctor or nurse about how to manage side effects, and the services available at CVMC to help you. Click here for more information about our services.

Additional Resources

National Cancer Institute: Side Effects and Ways To Manage Them
American Cancer Sociaty: Chemotherapy Side Effects