When you are diagnosed with cancer, your doctor may prescribe chemotherapy as a course of treatment. These powerful drugs are designed to destroy cancer cells before they can spread to other locations in the body. The treatment is physically demanding, and you may notice several side effects after your first session. While many people are familiar with hair loss as a common side effect of chemotherapy, this symptom generally takes several weeks to manifest. Other side effects can appear shortly after the initial session. It is difficult to determine the exact time frame in which an individual may experience any side effects.
Typical side effects that you may experience after your first chemotherapy treatment include fatigue, loss of appetite and fever. Because digestive disturbances are the most common side effects, you may also have bouts of nausea and vomiting as well as constipation or diarrhea. Some patients also report that they experience headaches as well as stomachaches and muscle pains. While some people experience these symptoms immediately after their first sessions, others develop these side effects over the course of several hours. These side effects may last a few days or affect you throughout your entire course of treatment. The symptoms and their severity depend on the combination of drugs that your doctor prescribes. Women, people younger than 50 and those prone to motion sickness are more likely to experience digestive problems. The drugs altretamine, carboplatin, cisplatin and oxaliplatin are also more apt to cause side effects. Chemotherapy treatments can cause anemia, low white blood cell counts and low platelet counts as well as mouth, gum and throat sores. These common side effects usually disappear when the treatment stops.
Although chemotherapy is normally administered orally or intravenously on an outpatient basis, you should still take precautions, such as arranging to have someone assist you after the session. The side effects can be debilitating and generally occur soon after the treatment. If possible, have someone help you get home, prepare meals, perform chores and run errands. This will give you time to recover between chemotherapy sessions without the stress of performing these tasks. While there is no way to prevent possible side effects, you can work with your doctor to develop a plan to manage them, which may include medications, reducing the amount of chemotherapy being administered or extending the period between sessions. While each person’s experience will be different, having a plan makes it easier to deal with side effects that may occur after your first chemotherapy session.