General side effects
– Chemotherapy can cause several side effects. Some side effects are common to different chemotherapy treatments. However, the intensity may vary depending on the person and the treatment. Blood tests will be taken regularly which will make it possible to follow the evolution of certain side effects.
– Hair loss: usually occurs within 2 to 3 weeks after the first chemotherapy treatment. The hair grows back after the end of the treatments.
– Canker sores or ulcers in the mouth: a simple gargle of water, salt and baking soda can help you prevent and cure them. Gargle after meals and at bedtime. You can gargle more often in the same day if it relieves you. A gargle that contains medication may be prescribed by your doctor if needed.
– Nausea and vomiting: can be immediate or delayed and vary in intensity depending on the chemotherapy you are receiving. There are several drugs to relieve or prevent them. Your doctor will prescribe which ones are most suitable for you. An oncology pharmacist will give you a schedule explaining when and how to take your nausea and vomiting medicine at home. A questionnaire to be completed on the nausea and vomiting suffered during your first chemotherapy treatment will allow you to readjust your medications, if necessary, during the next chemotherapy treatments.
Side effects on the blood
– Decrease in red blood cells: you may feel more tired
– Temporary decrease in some white blood cells: you are more at risk of contracting infections. It is important to check your temperature so that you can detect an infection as early as possible. Get a thermometer!
– Medicines to increase the number of white blood cells and the number of red blood cells may be prescribed by your doctor if necessary (medicines to be injected subcutaneously).
– Decrease in platelets: you can bleed and bruise more easily
– Fatigue is a side effect often seen with chemotherapy. Rest for the days following your treatments
– Skin sensitivity to the sun: apply sunscreen when you go outside (minimum SPF 30).
– Sexual life: use effective contraceptive methods
Side effects specific to certain chemotherapy treatments
An information form will be given to you by an oncology pharmacist during your first chemotherapy treatment. Side effects specific to your treatment will be mentioned and may include:
– Muscle and joint pain: Tylenol ® (acetaminophen) can be taken as needed. Avoid, on the other hand if you have a fever!
– Tingling in the fingers and toes: normally temporary, if it becomes painful, talk to the doctor or pharmacist.
– Palmoplantar syndrome: tingling, numbness, swelling, redness in the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. There are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk or relieve your symptoms (example: soaking your hands and feet in cold water). We will tell you more about it during our meetings.
– Particular sensitivity to drugs: certain drugs are administered intravenously before your chemotherapy to prevent allergic reactions. Sensitivity to drugs usually shows up while you are receiving chemotherapy. You should tell your nurse about any abnormal sensation in your vein or in your body that occurs during the administration of your treatments (example: pain in the vein, chills, redness on the skin).
– Urinary and / or kidney problems: it is recommended to drink more fluids during the 48 hours following the administration of certain chemotherapy treatments.
– A decrease in potassium and magnesium in the blood: your doctor may prescribe magnesium or potassium supplements to be given intravenously or by mouth if the decrease is significant.
– Constipation and diarrhea: several drugs are available in pharmacies to relieve constipation. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist!