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Minimizing the Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Physicians can help patients understand and manage their treatment
I will soon begin chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. What are the side effects?
“Side effects of chemotherapy can vary from patient to patient and the chosen medication regimen. Some patients feel well enough to continue their regular routines; others take a break from their normal home and work schedules,” says Selvarani Nallusamy, M.D., a board-certified physician specializing in Hematology and Oncology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “Fortunately, physicians today can help minimize many unpleasant side effects associated with chemotherapy.”
What is chemotherapy?
“Chemotherapy uses carefully chosen drugs to destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells. It’s usually administered intravenously or as an injection or pill,” Dr. Nallusamy says. “It can be given alone or with other treatments. For example, a patient may undergo chemotherapy before or after surgery or in combination with radiation therapy.”
Dr. Nallusamy says side effects usually include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness, fatigue and lowered immune system
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
Mitigating side effects
“Medications and lifestyle strategies can help alleviate many adverse side effects,” Dr. Nallusamy adds. “Most chemotherapy-related side effects usually subside after treatment ends. For some patients, treatments may produce longer-term effects.”
Talk to your doctor
“Talk with your healthcare team about what to expect with your treatment,” advises Dr. Nallusamy.
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