What to Expect with Chemotherapy
Talk to any cancer survivor who went through chemotherapy and you’ll often hear horror stories about how the body breaks down when exposed to the toxic chemo medications. Of course, the treatment isn’t all bad: Killing cancer cells is the primary goal, and chemo saves many lives each year. Still, the fight against cancer is filled with pain and suffering and it can be hard to predict what a single individual might experience during their own personal journey. That said, knowledge of a few of the common side effects of chemo can help inform a patient and, hopefully, help make the journey a little bit easier. Below, the people at Chemo Mouthpiece™ describe some of the developments you can expect when beginning your chemotherapy treatments; keep reading to learn more.
What to Expect After Your First Chemo Treatment
When the drugs used in chemotherapy first enter the body, they begin seeking out cells that rapidly divide and grow. This fast growth is the trademark behavior of cancer cells, so this objective makes sense; unfortunately, the drugs lack the ability to distinguish friend from foe, and so they end up attacking all the tissues in the body that show those same traits, even healthy cells. This is what causes many of chemo’s side effects, especially those that are most common – the hair loss, mouth sores, nerve pain, nausea, and immune system issues.
The side effects of chemo don’t all appear at the same time, however. Some only occur after repeated treatments, or days after treatment was administered. Others might make themselves apparent after only a few hours; it all depends on the patient.
Most people know that nausea is a typical side effect of chemotherapy, but the digestive issues of chemo patients extend beyond just feeling queasy. Vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation often accompany nausea in upsetting patient’s bowels and making everyday tasks like eating or going to the bathroom much less pleasant. While these issues can appear almost immediately after your first treatment, for some patients, these side effects don’t appear for days.
Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss
It’s probably not much of a surprise that patients with the symptoms mentioned above seldom have much of an appetite. Chemotherapy and radiation can both reduce a person’s appetite, and the unpleasant response to food can leave a patient with no real motivation to have a meal. This combination often leads to significant weight loss – a dangerous development that can jeopardize a patient’s prognosis and even lead to delays in treatment.
Almost everyone who goes through chemotherapy describes feeling “wiped out” by treatment. This fatigue is among the most common side effects of chemo; it tends to start after a singular treatment and worsens in the days that follow. Patients are encouraged to clear their schedule the day of a chemo infusion to allow themselves to rest and recover.
Even before chemotherapy begins, many patients report experiencing a phenomenon known as “chemo brain,” a sort of mental fog that clouds the mind and makes it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. It is believed that chemo brain is the result of a number of factors working together, including the chemo drugs, lack of sleep, general fatigue, stress, and the emotional strain of battling cancer. Chemo brain can appear at any point after diagnosis and can even last for years, in some cases.
One of the most tempting targets for toxic chemo drugs is the mucous membranes lining the mouth. Because these tissues see the same kind of rapid growth that cancer cells exhibit, the chemo medication tends to attack them once they’re in the mouth, causing painful sores and inflammation that can make it tough to chew or swallow. There is not yet a way to totally prevent this ailment for chemo patients, but a method called oral cryotherapy has shown promise as a way to combat the symptoms; a good oral care routine during chemo can help as well.
Like those in the mouth’s mucous membranes, the cells in hair grow quickly in comparison to other cells – which is why chemotherapy affects your hair as well. The chemo drugs attack hair cells the way they do cancer, causing the hair loss that people generally associate with chemo.
Compromised Immune System
Bone marrow is another type of tissue commonly affected by chemotherapy. As chemo drugs attack the marrow and interfere with its ability to create new blood cells, the body’s supply of white blood cells – the things that fight off infection – begins to dwindle. This leads to an increased risk of infection in cancer patients, and it means that those infections that do appear are a much greater threat to a patient’s overall health.
What to Expect After Your Last Chemo Treatment
Once your course of chemotherapy has ended, you’ll probably find yourself with a few lingering side effects that can last for weeks or months. If so, don’t get discouraged; it’s perfectly normal for those side effects to stick around for a while, though you should see them start to improve within a few weeks. If you are concerned with how your symptoms are – or are not – resolving themselves after chemotherapy, make sure to contact your doctor, oncologist, or cancer care team to discuss the issues you’re having.
Fight Mouth Sores with the Chemo Mouthpiece™
Most of the side effects of chemotherapy are difficult to mitigate; luckily, there’s a way to combat the mouth sores caused by chemotherapy. With an advanced yet easy-to-use oral cryotherapy device – the Chemo Mouthpiece™ – you can reduce the chemo drugs’ access to the mucous membranes in the mouth, limiting the damage they can do and saving yourself or a loved one considerable suffering. If you or someone you know is getting ready to go through chemotherapy, don’t wait; learn more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™ today by visiting us online or calling (866) 461-7518.