Chemotherapy is a common treatment for most types of cancer. However, this treatment can have a number of side effects on the body. Typically, it affects various areas of the body in some way.
Chemotherapy involves giving a person medications to kill cancerous cells. However, chemotherapy can also kill or slow the growth of healthy cells in the body.
In this article, we look at some of the effects that chemotherapy can have on the body.
We look at the effects on various systems in the body, mental health, and rare side effects.
The circulatory system includes the heart, blood vessels, and lymph nodes.
A 2021 study of rats investigated the effects of different types of chemotherapy on the immune system for ovarian cancer. The researchers concluded that each chemotherapy type caused different effects, some of which had negative effects on the immune system.
Chemotherapy may also cause problems in the digestive system.
It can cause diarrhea as it alters how the body breaks down nutrients from food and how it absorbs them into the body. According to
It may also damage healthy cells lining the intestines and mouth, which
Chemotherapy can lead to changes in the nervous system. Many of these changes may clear within
Symptoms of nervous system changes include:
- tingling, weakness, or numbness in hands or feet
- pain when walking
- feeling colder than usual
- weak, tired, or achy muscles
- loss of balance
- trembling or shaking
- stomach pain or discomfort
- hearing loss
- confusion and memory issues
In males, chemotherapy
- mouth soreness
2019 research into females who had breast cancer states that chemotherapy did not cause any sexual dysfunction.
In females, chemotherapy
- upper back
It can be painful. The rash may also burn, sting, or itch.
A 2019 survey found that
Although nail changes
In some cases, chemotherapy can induce kidney dysfunction or kidney disease. This occurs particularly in the later stages of cancer.
This may happen as the kidneys try to remove the chemotherapy medications from the body, causing damage.
Some types of chemotherapy may also affect the bladder. Chemotherapy can damage cells and irritate the bladder lining, potentially causing pain, blood in the urine, and difficulty urinating.
Changes to the color and smell of the urine
The CDC add that a person may also experience mental health challenges alongside this, such as:
Sometimes, a person may experience rare side effects of chemotherapy.
- a fever higher than the healthcare team advises is typical
- unexplained bruising
- signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling in the mouth and throat, severe itching, or difficulty swallowing
- intense chills
- pain or soreness at the chemotherapy entry site
- unusual pain, including extreme headaches
- breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath
- long lasting diarrhea or vomiting
- blood in the urine or stool
Below, we answer some common questions about the effects of chemotherapy on the body.
What is the most life threatening side effect of chemotherapy?
According to a 2015 article that the CDC published, the most life threatening side effect of chemotherapy may be neutropenia. This is where there is a decrease in infection-fighting white blood cells.
A decreased number of white blood cells means a person may be more prone to developing infections and other illnesses.
What can you not do on chemotherapy?
A person should consider avoiding the following when undergoing chemotherapy:
- overexerting themselves
- interacting with others who have infections
- drinking alcohol
- eating raw, spicy, acidic, or hard foods
- taking vitamins, supplements, and probiotics
- exposing themselves to UV light
A person who is receiving chemotherapy can speak with their doctor about other foods or activities to avoid.
How long does chemotherapy stay in the body?
The body usually takes around
A person with cancer may receive chemotherapy as a treatment because it can help to kill the cancerous cells. However, it may also destroy healthy cells, resulting in side effects that may cause permanent damage.
Chemotherapy can affect different systems around the body. However, not all people will experience these symptoms.
If a person develops any serious, rare side effects, they should contact their healthcare professional immediately.