Chemotherapy works by killing rapidly dividing cancer cells. As it wipes out cancer cells, though, chemotherapy can also destroy fast-growing healthy cells. This may cause you to experience side effects.
Your bone marrow’s ability to make blood cells might decrease.
- Anemia. You may not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues, which can leave you feeling tired or short of breath.
- Bleeding. You may not have enough platelets — a blood cell that plays an important role in forming blood clots — to help prevent bleeding when you’re injured.
- Infections. You may make fewer white blood cells, which protect your body from infections. An elevated body temperature may be the earliest sign of an infection.
The lining of your stomach and intestines could become damaged.
- Diarrhoea. Your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and get rid of waste might be affected.
- Nausea and vomiting. Damage to your stomach and intestinal lining can also cause nausea and vomiting.
- Constipation. Though less common, constipation also can be a side effect of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy targets rapidly growing cells, including healthy cells in your hair and inside your mouth.
- Hair loss. This happens most often on the scalp but your eyebrows and eyelashes may thin, too. Fortunately, hair loss is almost always temporary.
- Mouth sores. Damage to the cells in your mouth can create sores that make it difficult to eat and drink.