As each patient is an individual your experience will be different to other patients receiving chemotherapy. Common side effects that you may experience during treatment are:
• Nausea and vomiting (sickness)
The severity of any nausea and vomiting will vary from person to person. You will a be given some anti-sickness tablets to take home. If you continue to feel sick, contact the day unit (telephone numbers at the end of this leaflet) as your anti-sickness medication may need to be changed or increased.
• Sore Mouth
Following treatment you may develop a sore mouth and may notice mouth ulcers. Avoid very hot spicy foods. To help prevent oral infections brush your teeth at least twice a day and drink plenty of fluids. To prevent any mouth ulcers becoming infected you should use an anti-bacterial mouthwash. Ask your doctor or nurse to recommend one that is suitable. Occasionally during treatment you may experience a strange taste sometimes described as metallic or bitter. A strong flavoured sweet or mint may help disguise this.
• Bone Marrow Suppression
Your bone marrow is where your blood cells are made (these are the red cells, white cells, and platelets) to replace those naturally worn out by the body. Chemotherapy interferes with this process and the number of the cells in your blood can become lower than normal. This means following your treatment you could become:
• Prone to infection: White cells fight infection, a low white count can make you prone to infection. You may develop a sore throat, cough, high temperature, shivering or other symptoms, which may be due to infection. A normal temperature is between 36°C and 37°C. If your temperature is above 37.5°C or if you develop shivering or any other symptoms, which may be due to an infection, contact Ward 6b or 8 immediately.
• Anaemia: Red cells carry oxygen around your body, a shortage of these cells is called anaemia. You may feel dizzy, out of breath or unusually tired and you may look pale.
• Prone to bleeding: Platelets help to clot your blood and slow down bleeding. A low platelet count may make you prone to bleeding, this usually takes the form of nose-bleeds, bruising or bleeding gums.
You will have a routine blood test before each treatment to monitor the effects of the chemotherapy. Please contact Ward 6b or Ward 8 if you experience any of these symptoms.
• Hair loss
As a result of your treatment you may experience hair loss The hair falls out gradually 10 to 14 days following your first course of treatment. The time scale varies from person to person. Please remember that this is a temporary side effect and your hair will grow back when your treatment is completed. Your nurse will arrange for you to be provided with a wig if required. A scalp cooling service to prevent or reduce hair loss is available in this trust and is located at the Northern Centre for Cancer Treatment ( NCCT ).If you wish to have further details please ask your nurse or doctor. An information sheet is available re managing hair loss.
• Sex, pregnancy and family planning
If you are having chemotherapy it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have sex, but you may not feel like it. If there is a chance of pregnancy, you must use effective contraception while on chemotherapy. If you suspect that you or your partner may be pregnant please tell your doctor immediately. Chemotherapy may affect your ability to have children in the future – please discuss this with your doctor or chemotherapy nurse before treatment.
Many people feel tired and have low energy levels whilst undergoing chemotherapy. There is very little you can do to avoid this but research has shown that patients who suffer fatigue need to take gentle exercise and rest often. This feeling of fatigue is quite normal and energy levels will begin to improve once treatment is completed.
Please remember side effects are usually temporary. If you experience any of them, discuss them with your doctor or nurse.