Everyone will experience side effects uniquely. It’s important to discuss any side effects you have with your care team so they can help you manage them during your treatment.
Chemotherapy side effects
During cancer treatment, you may experience different side effects. These can vary depending on the type of cancer you have, the stage of your cancer and the kind of treatment you are undergoing.
Understanding side effects caused by chemotherapy treatment
While chemotherapy destroys cancer cells, it is the damage to healthy cells that causes many of the common side effects of chemotherapy.
Side effects vary depending on the type of chemotherapy drug used and the individual person.
Most are temporary and can be treated or managed.
Anaemia is defined as a reduced number of red blood cells in your body or a low haemoglobin level.
Appetite and taste changes
A change in taste and smell can impact your appetite and as a consequence your food intake.
Bleeding and low platelets
Thrombocytopenia refers to a reduction in the normal levels of functional platelets, which can increase your risk of bruising and bleeding.
Constipation refers to bowel motions that are too hard, too small, too difficult to expel and too infrequent.
Diarrhoea refers to increased frequency and decreased consistency of bowel motions, which generally last for several days after treatment.
Being diagnosed with cancer and starting treatment can be a very emotional time. Anxiety and depression are common in people affected by cancer.
When the body is exposed to certain medications it may trigger an immune system response. This process is similar to the body’s response when dealing with the influenza (commonly known as flu) virus.
Hair loss (alopecia)
Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy can cause hair loss, ranging from complete to thinning or patchy loss.
Hand foot syndrome
Hand foot syndrome is a common side effect associated with a number of chemotherapy drugs affecting the skin and sensation on the palms and soles.
Cancer and the effects of treatments can increase your risk of infection. Neutropenia is when neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection, are low.
Sometimes cancer and its treatment can affect your fertility, such as your ability to conceive a child or maintain a pregnancy.
Lymphoedema is the swelling of a limb and/or parts of the body caused by the lymphatic system not functioning properly.
Mouth sores occur when the lining of the mouth is damaged following chemotherapy or localised radiation therapy.
Nausea and vomiting
Feeling sick or queasy (nausea) and vomiting (throwing up) is a common problem for people being treated for cancer.
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when some chemotherapy drugs cause inflammation or injury to your peripheral nerves, impacting sensation, movement and function.
A common concern during your cancer journey is how the disease and treatment will impact your current or future relationships, including your sexuality.
Managing cancer side effects
Allied health services play a significant role in getting you through treatment and meeting your recovery goals. Find out how they can help you and your family manage treatment side effects.
Become a patient
Find out how to become a patient at Icon Cancer Centre, or request more information from your nearest centre.
A list of credible support agencies to help you through all stages of your cancer journey.
Families and carers
Helpful information on finding the right support when caring for a loved one with cancer.
Our patients share their perspective and advice on receiving and coping with a cancer diagnosis.