What causes side effects from chemotherapy?

Although chemotherapy drugs are selected for their action against a specific cancer, they can also interrupt normal cell growth and division, especially in fast growing cells, such as those in the hair and the digestive tract. This effect is why some patients lose their hair while taking chemotherapy, or might experience nausea or changes in taste. Your physician will closely monitor your care during treatment, including any side effects. Often side effects can be managed or relieved by additional medication. If necessary, your doctor may change the type of chemotherapy you are receiving or adjust your medication. Over 50% of all people being treated for cancer receive chemotherapy, which can be given in various ways. Chemotherapy may be used alone, or provided before, after, and in some cases during, cancer surgery, or in combination with radiation therapy.
While attacking cancer cells, chemotherapy also damages normal cells that divide rapidly. Some of these cells are hair follicles, gastro-intestinal tract (including the mouth), bone marrow and some reproductive organs. When this damage occurs you may experience hair loss, mouth soreness, diarrhea, low blood cell counts, fatigue, and infertility.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.