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What are the common and less common side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is one of the most effective cancer treatments that specifically target mutated cancer cells, which grow and divide quicker than healthy cells. According to the leading oncologist, Dr VikasGoswami, it works by destroying the cancer tissues on cellular levels and also prevent them from recurring in future.

However, it can also harm other healthy cells that divide quickly, like hair follicles, intestine and skin. Their structure is made of the fastest-growing cells in the body. So, when chemotherapy drugs start circulating in the body, these healthy cells can suffer the same damage as cancer cells.

Chemotherapy can cause various side effects, which may or may not go away after the treatment is over. These symptoms vary from patient to patient, depending on the amount and frequency of the dosage. Here are some common and not so common side effects that occur mostly in Dr VikasGoswami reviews of chemotherapy treatment:

Common side effects:

Hair loss: It’s one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. Hair cells are some of the fastest-growing healthy cells in the body. So when the doctor starts the patient on chemotherapy, they start losing hair from all over the body. It means not just the hair on the head but also eyelashes, eyebrows, armpits and even the body hair. In some cases, it can induce mild levels of hair loss, such as thinning and pattern baldness.

Fatigue: Most patients experience a feeling of perpetual fatigue or weakness during their chemotherapy treatments. It happens because chemotherapy ends up destroying many healthy cells in the body along with cancer cells. It messes up your body functions which put it in survival mode. Your body has to repair the damage caused by the treatment, which puts extra strain on your health.

Skin problems: Minor skin problems like dryness, itchiness and rash are common side effects of chemotherapy. It targets rapidly growing cells in the skin and cause the skin to become dry, itchy or red. In some cases, it may also cause an allergic reaction to the drugs like hives breakout or severe rash.

Nausea or vomiting: During chemotherapy, patients can suffer from mild to severe nausea. They are very common and have become less of a concern due to the availability of effective treatments for them. Chemotherapy drugs are absorbed faster and trigger certain areas of the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. These triggers can activate a reflex pathway that causes nausea and vomiting.

Immunosuppression: Cancer treatments like chemotherapy directly affect the patient’s immune system in different ways. Chemotherapy lowers the white blood cell count, which reduces the patient’s immunity and makes them vulnerable to infections. While the exact symptoms vary from patient to patient, the most common is increased susceptibility to infections caused by bacteria, viruses or malignancies.

Anaemia: Chemotherapy not only reduces white blood cells in patients but also lower red blood cells. It attacks fast-growing cells, including the ones that form red blood cells. Therefore, anaemia is a common and frequent complication of chemotherapy. It can also cause fatigue and light-headedness due to an improper supply of blood and oxygen in the body. According to Dr VikasGoswami, it can negatively impact cancer treatment by lowering its effectiveness.

Less common side effects:


Photosensitivity: In some cases, chemotherapy can target melanoma cells and cause pigmentation changes. It can cause the patient’s skin to become extra sensitive to sunlight and get sunburn more often.

Neurological conditions: According to an open study, chemotherapy can cause nerve pain, numbness and tingling sensations in the hands or feet. Some patients may feel tiredness, ache or shakiness in their muscles and also experience problem with balancing.

Digestion problems: In some cases, chemotherapy treatment can affect the digestion system. These drugs can harm cells in the gastrointestinal tract and cause vomiting, indigestion or ulcers.

If you want more information about the possible side effects or the effectiveness of chemotherapy, contact the leading oncologist, Dr VikasGoswami.