Chemotherapy is given by a medical oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with medication. Some people may receive chemotherapy in their doctor’s office; others may go to the hospital. A chemotherapy regimen usually consists of a specific number of cycles given over a period of time. Some drugs are given continuously over several days; some are given several times a week.
Side effects of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can damage healthy cells along with cancer cells, which may cause side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Depending on the drug, some people may also experience tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, hair loss and mouth sores. Because some drugs can damage blood cells, a person may experience anemia (low red blood cell counts) and/or an increased risk of infection (low white blood cell counts). Side effects can usually be treated and go away once treatment is finished. The occurrence of side effects is not related to whether the cancer drug is working or not.
During chemotherapy, a person may lose his or her appetite or develop an aversion to the taste or smell of food. Consider talking to a registered dietitian who can give suggestions about meal planning and managing side effects through simple diet changes.
Many people are concerned about the side effects of chemotherapy, and children and young adults should ask about long-term side effects of chemotherapy. Fortunately, many new drugs do not cause the same, severe side effects as some older chemotherapy drugs. And, there are many effective medications that help reduce side effects caused by chemotherapy.