uses drugs to enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body to kill cancer cells. The side effects from chemotherapy are from the destruction of normal cells. Chemotherapy may be given either alone, or with
surgery, radiation therapy,
or other medications.
Commonly used agents include: 5-Fluorouracil with leucovorinCapecitabineOxaliplatinIrinotecan
Chemotherapy is usually given by vein, but some forms can be given by mouth. Your medical oncologist will tell you how many cycles or courses of chemotherapy are best for you.
The side effects and amount of time required in the doctor’s office depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive, as well as how many cycles you receive and how often. The most common chemotherapy-associated side effects are:
Nausea and vomitingFatigue or tirednessConfusion, forgetfulnessDecreased blood counts, sometimes with bruising, bleeding, or infectionPossible sores inside the mouthNumbness in the hands and feetDiarrheaIncreased urgency to have a bowel movement or urinate
A variety of drugs is available to help manage side effects such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue due to anemia. Ask your doctor what treatments may be appropriate for you to manage these side effects, and be certain to contact your doctor as soon as you begin to experience side effects. The earlier side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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