Temporary side effects might include:
- Hair loss
- Dry mouth
- Mouth sores (stomatitis)
- Difficult or painful swallowing (esophagitis) * Nausea
- Susceptibility to infection
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in the way food tastes
- Cognitive impairment, sometimes referred to as "chemo brain"
- Liver damage
- Heart damage
- Nerve damage
- Lung damage
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How long these temporary side effects last depends on what drug or combination of drugs you're taking and for how long. Most chemotherapy side effects will subside shortly after you stop your treatments. And most short-term side effects can be minimized with medication. For example, your doctor can give you medications to help relieve nausea or build up your blood counts. If side effects make you uncomfortable, tell your doctor. If you find that the side effects are more than you're willing to endure, you can change treatments.
Long-term or late chemotherapy side effectsAs people with cancer live longer after treatment, doctors are discovering that some treatments cause long-lasting side effects or side effects that become apparent long after treatment ends. These long-term side effects are rare. Before you begin treatment, discuss with your doctor what long-term effects you might experience. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause:
- Organ damage, including problems with your heart, lungs and kidneys
- Nerve damage
- Blood in your urine (hemorrhagic cystitis)
- Another cancer, including Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia and some tumors
Your doctor can tell you what signs and symptoms to watch for after treatment. Knowing what long-term side effects to watch for can help you stay healthy after treatment.