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What to Expect a Day After Chemotherapy

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 12, 2021

If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, you may feel anxious or overwhelmed to go through chemotherapy. But learning more about cancer treatment will make you better prepared on your road to recovery. 

Your chemotherapy appointment can last from 5 minutes to more than 8 hours depending on the treatment you need. You’ll get chemotherapy through a port or a tube in your arm, during which you can relax or do what you want. 

After the treatment, you may have to wait for 30 minutes to make sure that there are no adverse reactions to the medication. The nurse will check your vitals, after which you can go home.

Everyone’s body reacts differently to cancer treatment depending on the severity of the condition and the medications being given. A day after your chemotherapy, you may feel weak and tired. You may also feel pain and have other side effects or reactions to the medications.

Different cancer medications can cause different side effects. Here are some common side effects of chemotherapy:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Pain in your head, muscles, and stomach
  • Burning, numbness, or shooting pain in fingers and toes
  • Mouth and throat sores
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Low blood count or anemia
  • Mental changes like difficulty in concentrating or thinking clearly, also called “chemo brain”
  • Fertility or reproductive problems

Let your doctor know about the side effects you have. For symptoms like chemotherapy-related pain, your doctor will:

  • Give you pain-relieving medications
  • Use spinal treatment or nerve blocks to block pain signals from the nerves to your brain 
  • Adjust your chemotherapy doses

Your doctor or nurse will give you medication for managing the side effects of chemotherapy. They may also tell you to do the following:

  • Avoid meeting people with a cold or infection. Chemotherapy can weaken your immune system and make you likely to get infections. 
  • Drink lots of liquids for 2 days after chemotherapy. This helps your body stay hydrated and keep side effects like constipation at bay. It also helps the medication to move through your body and work effectively. 
  • Avoid certain activities on the day of your treatment and after it. 

It's normal to feel fear or get anxious during your treatment. Side effects are not a measure of how well your treatment is going. Consult your doctor if you have serious side effects. Following-up will help you manage long-term side effects or late effects.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Cancer.Net: “Side Effects of Chemotherapy,” “What to Expect When Having Chemotherapy.”

MD Anderson Cancer Center: “What to expect on your first day of chemotherapy.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “After Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer.”

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