Manage the side effects of Chemotherapy
(NC) Hair loss, nausea, and fatigue are the most visible side effects of chemotherapy treatment – and they are also the symptoms most commonly identified by patients and caregivers. Be prepared, however, for side effects that may be unexpected and less visible.
What many people may not realize is that while destroying cancer cells, chemotherapy may also destroy healthy cells. This can put patients at risk of more serious conditions, including an increased risk of infection.
“As people prepare for their chemotherapy treatment, it is vital that they understand and recognize possible side effects that may occur, including those that are not easily visible,” says Dr. Sandy Sehdev, an oncologist at the William Osler Health Centre in Brampton, Ontario. “It is extremely important for patients to monitor their health, watching for fever and infection.”
The doctor points out that as many as one-in-three patients undergoing chemotherapy will develop neutropenia, a blood disorder where the number of white blood cells in the body is abnormally low. Because white blood cells are vital for a healthy immune system, a low count could lead to bacterial and fungal infections.
In addition, patients may also develop a more serious form of neutropenia accompanied by fever, called febrile neutropenia (FN), which may require urgent treatment and hospitalization. FN can also impact the patient's long-term chemotherapy prognosis, delaying the targeted outcomes.
If you or a loved one will soon be undergoing cancer treatment, be sure to monitor for signs of infection, as well as FN. Indicators include a fever over 38 C, flu-like symptoms, severe night sweats, burning with urination, and an increased mucus production.
More information about treatment side effects and how to manage them is available online at www.chemoready.ca.
Your doctor or nurse will advise you about the side effects you may experience when undergoing chemotherapy, and when you should notify them of any changes.
Side effects may include:
• Hair loss
• Nausea and vomiting
• Febrile neutropenia
• Appetite changes
• Bleeding problems
• Memory changes
• Mouth and throat changes
• Nerve changes
• Sexual and fertility changes in men and women
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