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Understanding Chemotherapy Side Effects: 18 Ways Chemo Affects You

Chemotherapy can be a tough journey for anyone. It’s a treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells in the body. But as effective as this treatment can be, it also comes with a host of side effects. The way chemotherapy affects people can vary depending on factors such as age, type of cancer, and overall health.


Fatigue - Many cancer patients experience extreme fatigue during chemotherapy. It’s important to listen to your body and get enough rest.

Anaemia - Low red blood cell count can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, and even heart palpitations.

Nausea and vomiting - This is one of the most well-known side effects of chemotherapy. Anti-nausea medication can help manage these symptoms.

Changes in appetite - Chemotherapy can affect your taste buds, causing food to taste different. It can also cause a feeling of fullness or lack of appetite.

Hair loss - Chemotherapy can cause hair loss on the scalp, face, and body.

Mouth sores - Some chemotherapy drugs can cause painful mouth sores, which can make eating and drinking difficult.

Skin changes - Chemotherapy can cause dry, itchy, and sensitive skin. It can also lead to acne breakouts or hyperpigmentation.

Infections - Chemotherapy can weaken the immune system, making patients more susceptible to infections.

Chemical sensitivity - Some chemotherapy drugs can cause patients to become sensitive to certain chemicals, such as perfumes or cleaning products.

Neuropathy - This refers to nerve damage that can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hands or feet.

Cognitive changes - Chemotherapy can cause difficulty with multitasking, memory loss, and other cognitive changes.

Depression and anxiety - Coping with cancer and chemotherapy can be challenging and stressful, leading to depression and anxiety.

Sexual health changes - Chemotherapy can decrease libido and lead to erectile dysfunction in men. It can also cause vaginal dryness and painful intercourse in women.

Fertility issues - Chemotherapy can damage reproductive organs and affect fertility in both men and women.

Heart problems - Some chemotherapy drugs can cause heart damage, which may lead to heart failure or other heart problems.

Lung problems - Chemotherapy can lead to shortness of breath, coughing, and other lung problems.

Eye problems - Chemotherapy can cause vision changes, including dry eyes, blurry vision, or sensitivity to light.

Risk of secondary cancer - Some chemotherapy drugs may increase the risk of developing other types of cancer later in life.


Chemotherapy can be a challenging experience both emotionally and physically. Understanding the side effects and what to expect can help you manage them and cope better. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, it’s important to communicate openly with your healthcare team and your loved ones about how you’re feeling. There are many supportive care options available that can help you through this challenging time. Remember, you are not alone.