A mother is joined by her young sons while she receives chemotherapy
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Effects of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy medications attack all fast-growing cells, including cancer cells and normal, healthy cells. Normal cells that divide rapidly include blood cells, cells in the hair follicles and cells lining your mouth, stomach, and bowels. Damage to normal, healthy cells can be the cause of side effects such as low white blood cell count (neutropenia), low red blood cell count (anemia), or low platelet count (thrombocytopenia).

Effects on the white blood cells (neutrophils) results in neutropenia which can put patients at risk for serious infection. A low white blood cell count may result in a your chemotherapy dose being reduced or delayed.

With anemia, the number of red blood cells in the body is lower than normal, causing symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and paleness of the skin.

Thrombocytopenia is a less common side effect of chemotherapy that affects platelet cells, or the cells that help form blood clots and help stop bleeding. It means you can bruise more easily even without having an injury. It is less common and may happen within 10 to 21 days after chemotherapy treatment. Bleeding at any time should be reported to your healthcare team immediately.

The effect on healthy cells is also the reason why you may experience hair loss and bone loss, as well as the nausea, vomiting, and mouth sores. It's your body's reaction to therapy. Your healthy cells can recover and most side effects will gradually disappear when treatment is finished.

Some treatments may result in side effects that can affect how you feel on a day-to-day basis during your treatment.


Southlake Regional Health Centre
596 Davis Drive, Newmarket, Ontario   L3Y 2P9
Tel: 905-895-4521   |   TTY: 905-952-3062
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