Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Let’s talk about the chemotherapy that’s generally given for breast cancer. Chemotherapy, again, is not targeted treatment, but it’s what’s called cytotoxic treatment, which means that it’s going to be affecting the cells in the body that grow quickly, and hence, it affects cancer. So for the chemotherapy that we use for breast cancer, one of the major side effects for that treatment is complete hair loss. This is pretty common and generally will affect all women that are on these regimens.
However, it’s good to know that after your treatment has stopped, you should have complete hair recovery. Other common side effects for the majority of the chemotherapies we use for breast cancer can be decrease in your blood cell counts, which could increase risk of infection, cause your red cells to drop, something called anemia, or also cause your platelets to drop.
Generally, these are mild, and in addition, sometimes we give medications that can help increase your white blood cells. So this is common for the blood counts to drop and not necessarily something that should be a concern because your medical oncologist will be monitoring your labs closely.
Other common side effects with the chemotherapy we use for breast cancer are nausea, although generally patients don’t have vomiting because the medications that we provide for antinausea are very effective. In addition, sometimes patients have diarrhea and something called neuropathy, which is when you get some nerve damage to your nerves, where you’ll start to feel symptoms of numbness, tingling.
Sometimes people describe it as like an electrical type of pain, or they’ll even say that sensation like they feel like something is just on the tips of their fingers. Like if you had glue when you were a kid on the tip of your fingers, your sensation will be slightly different. This is common with all of the chemotherapies that we use. And a lot of times this will recover after your chemotherapy. However, sometimes some of that damage can be permanent.
This neuropathy is common actually with some of the chemotherapies we use that’s in a family of medications called the taxols. A medication called paclitaxel is one of those medications, and oftentimes that’s given either weekly or every three weeks based on the particular regimen that your medical oncologist has determined for you.
1. Chemotherapy is cytotoxic treatment, which means that it affects the cells in the body that grow quickly.
2. One of the major side effects is complete hair loss.
3. Other common side effects can be decrease in blood cell counts, which could increase risk of infection, cause anemia, or cause your platelets to drop.
4. Generally, these are mild and sometimes we give medications that can help increase your white blood cells.
5. Another common side effect with breast cancer chemotherapy is nausea, although generally patients don’t have vomiting.
6. Sometimes patients have diarrhea and something called neuropathy, which is when you get nerve damage and start to feel numbness or tingling.
7. Sometimes some of that damage can be permanent. Neuropathy is common with medications called taxols.