Chemo targets fast-growing cells like cancer cells, but it also affects normal cells that grow quickly like hair follicles, blood-forming cells in the bone marrow, and cells in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and reproductive system. Chemotherapeutic drugs can also affect cells in the lungs, heart, nervous system, kidneys and bladder.
When healthy cells get damaged, side effects occur. People experience chemotherapy differently and some have more side effects than others. While each drug can cause specific symptoms, many kinds of chemotherapy have some side effects in common. These include hair loss, mouth sores, changes in skin and nails, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anemia, constipation or diarrhea, weight gain, bruising or bleeding, increased risk of infection, and problems with nerves, muscles, kidneys or the bladder.
During chemotherapy, patients need all the support that they can get. If you know someone going through cancer treatment, put together a care package for him or her. Here are some things to include: