Chemotherapy drugs work by targeting cells that divide rapidly. However, cancer cells are not the only cells that divide rapidly. Normal cells in the blood, lining the digestive tract, and in the hair follicles also divide rapidly. Unfortunately, these healthy cells also may also be affected by the chemotherapy drugs.
Another side effect of chemotherapy is its impact on blood cell counts. Chemotherapy can reduce the function of the bone marrow, where most blood cells are produced.
Common side effects of chemotherapy include:
Nausea and vomiting
Infections, as greater vulnerability arises from a low white blood cell count
Fatigue, caused by anemia
Easy bruising and bleeding, due to a reduced count of platelets (cells involved in clotting)
Temporary hair loss
Not all chemotherapy patients develop all of these side effects. Furthermore, these side effects usually go away during during the recovery period portion of the chemotherapy cycle or after treatment stops.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you are experiencing any of these side effects. Medicines and other treatments are available to control or minimize many of these side effects.