Chemotherapy medicines can damage healthy cells that normally divide quickly. They do not distinguish between cancerous cells and non-cancerous cells. This can cause effects throughout the body (systemic effects). The damage to healthy cells is the reason for the side effects.
Chemotherapy often interferes with the rapidly growing cells of the body like the gastrointestinal lining, hair, skin and nails. Survivors receiving these medicines may experience temporary side effects such as mouth sores, upset stomach (sometimes with vomiting), hair loss and skin rashes. Side effects usually improve or resolve as the non-cancer tissues repair themselves.
After effects happen when organs are damaged by high doses of or repeated exposure to chemotherapy. How long the after effects last depends on many factors, including if (and when) damaged organs can repair themselves. Not all chemotherapy medicines cause the same after effects. Some after effects are due to a combination of chemotherapy with other treatments such as radiation.
The following are examples of possible after effects of chemotherapy:
- Early or premature menopause
- Changes to the heart
- Reduced lung capacity with difficulty breathing
- Kidney and urinary problems
- Neuropathy or numbness, tingling and other sensations in certain
areas of the body, especially the hands and feet
- Muscle weakness
- Cognitive problems such as memory loss or inability to concentrate
- Changes in texture and appearance of hair and nails
- Secondary cancers
Chemotherapy medicines can damage healthy cells that normally
divide quickly. They do not distinguish between cancerous cells and
non-cancerous cells. This can cause effects throughout the body
(systemic effects). The damage to healthy cells... More