Chemotherapy Side Effects

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What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancer cells. Chemotherapy has been used for many years and is one of the most common treatments for cancer. In most cases, chemotherapy act by interfering with the ability of growth or reproduction of cancer cells. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used alone to treat some types of cancer or in combination with other therapies, such as radiation or surgery. Often, a combination of chemotherapy drugs to fight a specific cancer. Certain chemotherapy drugs may be given in a specific order, depending on the type of cancer being treated.

While chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating certain cancers, chemotherapy drugs reach all parts of the body, not just the cancer cells. For this reason, it may be many side effects during treatment. Being able to anticipate these side effects can help you and those in charge of their care to prepare and, in some cases, to avoid the appearance of these symptoms.

How is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy can be given:

  • as a pill to swallow.
  • as an injection into the muscle or fat tissue.
  • as intravenously (directly into the bloodstream, also called IV).
  • as a topical (applied to the skin).
  • directly into a body cavity.

What are some of the chemotherapy drugs and their potential side effects?

Normally used over 50 chemotherapy drugs. The table below provides examples of some chemotherapy drugs and their various names. Lists some but not necessarily all types of cancers for which it is used and describes various side effects. Some side effects may occur immediately after treatment (days or weeks) or later (months or years) after the administration of chemotherapy. The list of side effects presented below is not exhaustive. There may be other side effects.

As with individual medical profile and diagnosis of each person, the response to treatment is different in each patient. Side effects can be severe, mild or absent. Be sure to refer to the team against cancer care about the side effects of treatment before it begins.

 

Chemotherapy Drug
Possible side effects 1
carboplatin
(Paraplatin)
 
  • usually given intravenously (IV)
  • used for ovarian cancers, head and neck, and lung
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • confusion
  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (usually a short-term side effect occurring the first 24-72 hours after treatment)
cisplatin
(Platinol, Platinol-AQ)
 
  • usually given intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the bladder, ovary and testis
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • allergic reaction, including a rash and difficulty breathing (rare)
  • nausea and vomiting that usually occurs for 24 hours or more
  • tinnitus and hearing loss
  • fluctuations in blood electrolytes
  • kidney damage
cyclophosphamide
(Cytoxan)
 
  • can be administered intravenously (IV) or oral
  • used for lymphoma, breast cancer and ovarian carcinoma
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • decreased appetite
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • Bladder damage
  • fertility problems
  • lung or heart damage (with high doses)
  • secondary malignancies (rarely)
docetaxel
(Taxotere)
 
  • is administered intravenously (IV)
  • is used for breast cancer, lung and prostate
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • decreased appetite
  • baldness
  • eruption
  • numbness or tingling in hands and feet
doxorubicin
(Adriamycin)
 
  • is administered intravenously (IV)
  • is used for breast cancer, lymphomas and multiple myeloma
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • mouth sores
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • heart damage
erlotinib
(Tarceva, OSI-774)
 
  • oral administration
  • used for non small cell lung cancer
  • rash and other skin changes
  • diarrhea
etoposide
(Vepesid, VP-16)
 
  • can be administered intravenously (IV) or orally
  • used for cancers of the lung, testicular, leukemia and lymphoma
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • allergic reaction (rare)
  • mouth sores
  • low blood pressure (in administration) (rare)
  • decreased appetite
  • diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • bronchospasm (rare)
  • symptoms similar to the flu (rare)
fluorouracil
(5-FU)
 
  • is administered intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the colon, breast, stomach, and head and neck
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • diarrhea
  • mouth sores
  • photosensitivity
  • dry skin, darkening of the skin beds and nail
Gemcitabine
(Gemzar)
 
  • is administered intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of pancreas, breast, ovary and lung
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever and symptoms similar to those of influenza
  • eruption
imatinib mesylate
(Gleevec, STI 571)
 
  • oral administration
  • used for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fluid retention (swelling around the ankles and eyes)
  • muscle cramps
  • diarrhea
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • rash
irinotecan
(Camptosar, CPT-11)
 
  • is administered intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the colon and rectum
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
methotrexate
(Folex, Mexate, Amethopterin)
 
  • can be administered intravenously (IV), intrathecally (into the backbone) or oral
  • used for cancers of the breast, lung, blood, lymphatic system, bone and
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • nausea and vomiting
  • mouth sores
  • rashes and photosensitivity
  • dizziness, headache or drowsiness
  • kidney damage (produced with high-dose therapy)
  • liver damage (rare)
  • hair loss (reversible)
paclitaxel
(Taxol, Abraxane)
 
  • is administered intravenously (IV)
  • used with breast, ovarian and lung
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • Allergic Reaction
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • change in taste
  • thin or brittle hair
  • joint pain (short-term)
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes
sorafinib
(Nexavar)
 
  • oral administration
  • used for advanced kidney cancer
  • hypertension (during the first weeks of treatment)
  • rash and other skin changes
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • hair loss
  • nausea and vomiting
sunitinib
(Sutent)
 
  • oral administration
  • for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) and renal cancer
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • mouth ulcers
  • stomach ache
  • skin changes, such as discoloration and rash
  • fatigue
  • Hypertension
  • hemorrhage
  • inflammation
  • taste disorders
topotecan
(Hycamtin)
 
  • is administered intravenously (IV)
  • used for ovarian and lung cancers
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • diarrhea
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • nausea and vomiting
vincristine
(Oncovin)
 
  • usually given intravenously (IV)
  • used for leukemia and lymphoma
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes
  • weakness
  • reflection loss
  • jaw pain
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • constipation or abdominal cramps
vinblastine
(Velban)
 
  • is administered intravenously (IV)
  • used for lymphoma and testicular cancers and head and neck
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • constipation or abdominal cramps
  • jaw pain
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes

1 Not all side effects listed. Some of the names may be short-term side effects, others are long-term side effects

To read more articles on the subject of Chemotherapy we recommend visiting the following addresses:

Source 
University of Virginia Health System 
http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu

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