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CHEMOTHERAPY : Benefits and Side Effects

20 June, 2020 Arpita Karmakar

What is chemotherapy?

Cancer is a disease that occurs when some changes take place in genes. These changes are known as mutations that regulate cell growth. The mutations let the cells divide and multiply in an uncontrollable way and grow in an unruly manner.

This reckless cell growth causes cancer because the tumor in it takes away the nutrients and energy and deprives the cells around it.


Chemotherapy refers to the set of drugs that are used to kill cancer cells from growing or multiplying. It helps prevent cell division targeting the food source such as the enzymes and hormones that they need to grow.



Benefits to chemotherapy-

There are a number of benefits why Chemotherapy has grown as a great alternative or pre-procedure to surgery. For example - Chemotherapy is used excessively to slow the progression of cancer and shrink the size of a tumor before surgery. It is also used to remove any leftover cancerous cells along with delaying or prevention a recurrence.



Side effects associated with chemotherapy-

3MEDS, the best cancer medicine provider in India points out some common side effects associated with chemotherapy.


Hair loss-

The most widely known side effect of chemotherapy is substantial hair loss during the treatment procedure. Hair loss usually starts after the first few weeks into chemotherapy and tends to increase as the treatment progresses. In most cases, hair grows back after the treatment. With some patients, nails might even get brittle and skin might get extra sensitive to sun exposure.




Due to the excessive intake of drugs, it is normal to feel fatigued most of the time during ongoing chemotherapy. It's advisable to ensure sufficient rest and avoid overexertion due to work


Cognitive dysfunction-

People undergoing chemotherapy often complain about troubles in thinking and concentration. People also seem to suffer from memory loss, stress, depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, etc, and are necessarily advised to see a psychologist or a counselor throughout the process.



Mouth sores-

Chemotherapy often damages the cells inside our mouth and throat causing painful sores in these areas. This condition is called mucositis which usually goes away after the treatment ends.




Chemotherapy often causes pain such as headaches, muscle pain, pain from nerve damage, etc. Most of this pain gets away with treatment. And in case it doesn't, doctors can treat it by prescribing pain-relieving medications, adjusting the doses of chemotherapy and blocking pain signals from various nerves to the brain.


Blood disorders-

A number of blood disorders like Anemia, excessive bruising, infections, low platelet count, etc are the direct side effects of chemotherapy

During Chemotherapy there occurs reduced red blood cells leading to Anemia, tiredness, shortness of breath, etc, and reduced white blood cells leading to weakening of immunity, frequent bruising, etc.


Reduced Fertility-

Chemotherapy has adverse side effects on fertility rate, both in men and women. For women, it affects their ability to carry a pregnancy while in men it causes displeasure in sexual encounters. But this diminishing fertility rate often comes back after the treatment.


Loss of appetite-

Since Chemotherapy is an invasive treatment affecting both physically and mentally. In this process patients often lose their appetite and suffer significant weight loss. Patients should try to frequently eat at smaller intervals . Smoothies, shakes and nutritious drinks can help the patient consume more nutrients.Diarrhea and constipation are also common effects of chemotherapy.


Long term side effects -

Most of these side effects are usually temporary and go away after treatment. But a certain number of side effects are permanent and cause significant damage to the liver, lungs, heart, kidneys, and reproductive system with troubles persisting for years after treatment.


Why does chemotherapy cause side effects?

The procedure of Chemotherapy works on active cancer cells, the kind of cells that have been growing and dividing into more numbers of the same type of cells. Along this process, some of the healthy cells like those cells in the blood, digestive system, mouth, and hair follicles get affected and side effects occur when the procedure of chemotherapy damages these healthy cells.