5 Side Effects of Chemotherapy Every Cancer Patient Should Know About


For something as life-threatening as cancer, chemotherapy (chemo, in short) is the best possible treatment. It is a powerful and widely used treatment for cancer that aims to destroy cancer cells and slow down their growth. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies cancer as the leading cause of death worldwide. In 2020 alone, the disease led to the death of 10 million people. Thus comes the need for proper cancer treatment, and it seems that chemotherapy works just well enough. 

According to the CDC, over a million cancer patients in the US receive chemo. With time, the number of people seeking this form of treatment will only increase, mostly due to its decent success rate. 

However, while chemo has been successful in saving countless lives, it also comes with a range of side effects that can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. Understanding these side effects is essential for cancer patients and their families to be prepared and make informed decisions about their treatment journey. 

In this article, we will explore five common side effects of chemotherapy that every cancer patient should be aware of.

#1 Nausea and Vomiting

The drugs used in chemotherapy can irritate the stomach lining and trigger the brain’s vomiting center, leading to a queasy feeling and vomiting. The severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the specific chemotherapy drugs used and the individual’s tolerance level.

Medical advancements have led to the development of effective anti-nausea medications, which can help manage this side effect to a great extent. Patients are usually prescribed these medications before their chemotherapy sessions to prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting. Patients must communicate with their healthcare team about the intensity of their symptoms, as adjustments to medication dosages or alternative drugs may be considered.

It is also worth noting that if unsafe medications are used, chemo can lead to vision damage, as was found in the Taxotere watery eyes lawsuit. Taxotere is a well-known chemotherapy drug. It helps fight cancer by over-stabilizing the structure of cancer cells. However, recently, it’s been found that the use of this drug can lead to vision damage and eye injuries. 

According to TorHoerman Law, Taxotere manufacturers now face over 10,000 Taxotere lawsuits. They’re responsible for hiding these long-term side effects. Thus, the lawsuits are being filed by the Taxotere victims to seek compensation for their injuries and other losses. 

To avoid such side effects, patients must be aware of which medication is safe and which isn’t. It also falls on their healthcare provider to ensure that such chemo drugs are not used or prescribed during the procedure. 

#2 Fatigue

Fatigue is a common side effect experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The treatment can lead to a decrease in red blood cells, causing anemia, which contributes to feelings of extreme tiredness and weakness. Additionally, the body expends a significant amount of energy fighting cancer cells and recovering from the impact of chemotherapy.

Coping with fatigue requires patients to listen to their bodies and prioritize rest when needed. Maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in light physical activities, and seeking support from family and friends can also help manage fatigue. Patients are encouraged to communicate openly with their healthcare team about their energy levels to ensure any underlying issues are addressed promptly.

#3 Hair Loss

Hair loss, also known as alopecia, is an emotionally challenging side effect of chemotherapy. Cancer drugs can damage hair follicles, leading to partial or complete hair loss on the scalp and sometimes other parts of the body. For many patients, hair loss can be a visible reminder of their illness, affecting their self-esteem and body image.

Although hair loss is typically temporary, coping with this side effect may involve wearing wigs, scarves, or hats to protect the scalp and maintain confidence during treatment. Support groups and counseling can be valuable resources for patients struggling with the emotional impact of hair loss.

#4 Weakened Immune System

Chemotherapy not only targets cancer cells but can also weaken the body’s immune system. To protect their weakened immune system, patients are advised to avoid crowded places and individuals with contagious illnesses. Frequent handwashing, proper hygiene, and following the healthcare team’s recommendations regarding vaccinations are essential measures to minimize the risk of infections. In severe cases, doctors may adjust chemotherapy dosages or delay treatment sessions to allow the immune system to recover.

#5 Cognitive Impairment (Chemo Brain)

Some cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy report experiencing cognitive changes, commonly referred to as “chemo brain.” This side effect can manifest as memory problems, difficulty concentrating, mental fog, and decreased mental clarity. While the exact cause of chemo brain is not fully understood, it is believed to be linked to the impact of chemotherapy on brain function.

Coping strategies for chemo brain include creating to-do lists, maintaining a structured schedule, engaging in mental exercises, and seeking support from loved ones. Patients should openly discuss any cognitive changes with their healthcare team to ensure appropriate management and rule out other potential causes.


According to the University of New South Wales, every year, more than 15 million people will need chemo by 2040. As dependency on this treatment process grows, people must educate themselves on the side effects it has. It might help you or your loved ones if you’re ever in need of such treatment. 


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