Chemotherapy drugs may have various side effects, some of which may be quite severe. It is important to be well informed before embarking on a chemotherapy drug treatment because the side effects may have an effect on your quality of life. Radiation therapy can also have various side effects. Side effects may range from mild to severe and it depends on many factors. These factors include the type of drugs given, the general health of the individual, anemia, problems with sleeping, psychological feelings such as stress and depression, and other medical problems.

There are many medications that can be used to help deal with symptoms, some of which are over-the-counter medications, It is however very important to inform your physician before taking any over-the –counter medications because these may interfere with the chemotherapy drugs given. If the medications prescribed by your physician do not help inform him or her so he/she may prescribe others. The patient can also do a great deal to deal with the symptoms. The physician or nurse may give you a lot of tips of how to deal with the side effects.


Fatigue
This is one of the commonest symptoms of chemotherapy drugs. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Relax
  • Seep adequately
  • Take short naps during the day
  • Eat small frequent meals rather than large less frequent meals
  • Refrain from doing certain activities
  • Do some light exercise


A Higher Risk of Infections
Chemotherapy drugs can have a temporal effect on your bone marrow and may so cause a reduction in the white blood cells. White blood cells fight infections and so by a drop in the count of these cells, the body will be less able to fight any infection. It is important to consult your physician promptly if you suspect an infection. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Take extra care of your hygiene
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Avoid cutting yourself
  • Avoid animals
  • Be very hygienic when preparing food

Nausea and Vomiting
Both nausea and vomiting are common side effects of chemotherapy drugs. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Eat food that does not upset your stomach
  • Eat small frequent meals instead of large less frequent meals
  • Reduce the fluids you take
  • Stay away from strong smells

Constipation
This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Drink a lot of water
  • Do some light exercise
  • Eat high-fiber food

Diarrhea
This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Eat small frequent meals rather than large less frequent meals
  • Eat food high in sodium and potassium
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Eat low-fibred food


Hair Thinning/Hair Loss
Hair thinning and hair loss is a common side effect of some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy. Most people are concerned about the thinning and fall of their hair since this side effect is quite visible. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Be gentle when you wash and dry your hair
  • Avoid strong shampoos
  • Use a wig

Problems with Breathing, Tiredness/Weakness
These symptoms are signs of Anemia. Anemia occurs when there is a drop in the red cells in your blood. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Sleep adequately
  • Take short naps during the day
  • Limit your activities
  • Eat a well balanced diet


Bruising/Bleeding
This is the effect of chemotherapy drugs on the bone marrow which reduces the platelets count. Platelets assist the blood to clot. If there is a reduction of these cells, the body is easily bruised and bleeding will take longer to stop. It may be dangerous if your platelets count is too low and you must inform your physician promptly about it. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Take special attention when you brush your teeth or blow your nose
  • Try not to cut yourself
  • Avoid brisk physical activities


Loss of Appetite/ Changes in Taste/ Loss of Taste/ Metallic Taste
Chemotherapy can cause loss of appetite and loss of taste for various reasons. It Loss of appetite can cause other problems like difficulty in sleeping, and so may increase tiredness during the day. It is however very important that you eat even if you have no appetite. If you do not eat adequately you will suffer from many other problems. Your body needs plenty of food in order to be able to fight infections and to repair tissues that have been damaged by chemotherapy. It is so very important that you eat even if you have no appetite or if the food is tasteless. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Eat small frequent meals rather than large less frequent meals.
  • Take food and drinks with a high-caloric
  • Limit your fluid intake during meals and instead drink between meals.

Other side effects depend on how you taste food. Some foods especially those high in proteins such as meat may start to have a bitter or metallic taste. Other foods, although they may not have a metallic taste, may have less taste than usual. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Apply flavored seasonings and dressings
  • Use plastic utensils instead of metallic utensils


PAGESore Mouth
Sores in your mouth may be annoying and painful and sometimes you may find it difficult to eat. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Visit the dentist prior to the start of treatment
  • Keep your mouth clean
  • Eat food that is easily to chew and swallow

Loss of Hearing/ Ringing in the Ears/ Numbness or Tingling in Extremities
Chemotherapy drugs can cause problems to the nervous system. Nervous system problems may take several months to ease after termination of treatment. Some are however permanent. Therefore it is very important to advice your physician immediately if you suspect damage to your nervous system. If you have symptoms of loss of hearing, tingling or numbness in hand or legs or other problems such as loss of memory or trembling it may mean that chemotherapy is affecting your nervous system. It is very important that you inform your physician as soon as possible since the problems should be tackled as early as possible.


Brain Changes
These may include problems with doing calculations, loss of memory, less of drive for sexual desire, personality changes and others. It is very important to inform your physician about any changes in your brain functions that you may have since some changes may be permanent. He/she may prescribe the course of action to be taken in your circumstances.


Darker Nails
Chemotherapy can have an effect on your nails. Your nails may change color and become darker or turn to yellow. They may crack and sometimes they may even fall. Those that fall will however grow back again. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Trim your nail
  • Keep your nails clean
  • Use protective gloves when you do manual work
  • Refrain from using cosmetics on your nails


Skin Rash / Skin Problems
Chemotherapy can damage the cells of your skin in various ways. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Refrain from using any perfume
  • Take special attention when you wash yourself


Allergic Reactions
You may be allergic to the type of chemotherapy drugs given to you. An allergic reaction is the hypersensitive response of the immune system of the individual to a substance (in this case to the chemotherapy drugs). Common symptoms include flushing, itching, swelling, wheezing and trouble in breathing. If you suspect that you have any allergic reaction inform your physician immediately.
 

Drowsiness
Chemotherapy drugs may make you extremely sleepy after the administration of the drugs. This is usually a mild side effect that usually goes away on its own.


Kidney Problems
The cells of your kidneys and the bladder may be damaged by chemotherapy drugs. Frequent need to urinate, feelings of burning when urinating or after, inability to urinate, inability to control the flow of urine, blood in the urine, colored urine, urine that smells of a strong medicine odor, a high temperature and chills are all symptoms of kidney or bladder problems. The kidney may be unable to cope with the amount of drugs administered. So it is important that tests are performed before treatment is initiated to make sure that your kidneys can cope with the amount of drugs given. It is important that the patient drinks a lot of water before and after each treatment that uses chemotherapy drugs that can damage the kidneys so that any damage can be prevented as far as possible. It may also help if you limit drinks that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea and colas. Kidney problems are either of a temporarily or of a permanent nature. Therefore it is extremely important to keep a good channel of communication with your physician about these problems.


Liver Function Changes
Some chemotherapy drugs can cause changes in the way your liver works. This is usually only of a temporarily basis and after treatment is terminated your liver will go back to normal. You will most probably not notice any symptoms but your physician will check your liver with appropriate tests.


Blurred Vision
Chemotherapy drugs can cause your eyes to water more than usual and can clog your tear drugs. You may suffer from blurry vision. These effects usually stop with the termination of the treatment.


Swelling in Parts of the Body
Chemotherapy drugs may cause swelling in some parts of the body. This swelling occurs because of the build up of fluids that occurs due to the chemotherapy drugs, hormonal changes caused by the treatment or by the mesothelioma cancer itself. Swelling can occur in various parts of your body such as your face, hands, feet, stomach, around your lungs, around your heart or in the lower part of your belly. This build up of fluids can cause coughing, shortness of breath and an irregular heart beat. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Monitor any weight changes
  • Avoid salty foods
  • Limit your fluid intake

Lymphedema
Lymphedema is the swelling of tissues such as the feet or arms. This occurs because of the damage caused to your lymph nodes. This side effect may be eased if you:

  • Exercise
  • Use appropriate lotions
  • Avoid extreme weather
  • Refrain from wearing tight clothes

Joint Problems
You may have a decreased ability in the movement of certain joints such as your shoulders, hips or jaw. Symptoms of joint problems may include problems in opening your mouth wide open and problems in making other movement. If this is your case inform your physician. There are physicians that can help you to improve your movement and reduce any discomforts.


Secondary Cancer
Radiation therapy may increase the chance that you develop another cancer. However this is a rare occurrence and if it is going to develop, it does so several years after radiation therapy is administered