Chemotherapy just may be more notorious for its side effects than for its
life-saving potential. Fortunately, after years of experience with chemo drugs,
doctors and patients have found ways to manage common side effects. A few are
Though chemotherapy drugs can cause dozens of unwelcome side effects, the
trinity that usually comes to mind is:
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the formal ranking system used by the PDQ Editorial Boards to assess evidence supporting the use of specific interventions or approaches. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.
Fatigue: One survey found that 76% of people treated for various forms of
cancer frequently felt fatigued -- for some the kind of persistent exhaustion
and weakness that makes it hard to do everyday activities.
Making matters worse, chemotherapy can decrease red blood cell counts,
which in turn causes fatigue.
While drugs can stimulate the production of red blood cells, the problem may
be more complex, says James Rigas, MD, director of the Comprehensive Thoracic
Oncology Program at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, N.H.
For some patients, "it's not just anemia. Correcting their anemia is not
making their fatigue go away," he tells WebMD.
No matter what the cause, you don't have to let fatigue get the best of you.
To cope, try attending to the highest priorities in your life first. Don't
waste energy on unimportant things -- and be sure to accept help from family,
friends, and neighbors.
And get plenty of rest during your treatment, though being too inactive can
make things worse, says the American Cancer Society. An exercise program can
help some, but check with your doctor to see if that's right for you.
No Nausea During Chemotherapy? It's Possible
Nausea is second among the dreaded trinity of chemotherapy side effects,
with the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs causing nausea and vomiting 60%
to 90% of the time.
The arsenal for tackling chemo-induced nausea can include:
Anti-nausea drugs. In recent years the choice of such medications
has grown, and whether taken before chemotherapy by IV or as a pill, they can
control nausea and vomiting very well. Most people experience relief for the
first 24 hours after chemotherapy and about 45% for the first five to seven
days of treatment.