Chemotherapy is an important treatment option for patients affected by colon cancer. This article discusses some of the side effects of using this therapy.
Chemotherapy refers the use of certain types of medicines or drugs for the treatment of cancer. It acts by killing the cancer cells, which divide and grow uncontrollably. A cancer patient may undergo this therapy simply by swallowing a pill or taking intravenous injections. Depending on the type of cancer, patients are given ‘chemo’ once a day, once a week, or even once a month. The duration of treatment depends on the type of cancer and the patient’s response to the drugs.
Certain healthy cells are also likely to be affected by chemo, thereby causing side effects. These side effects depend on the type of the drugs, their dosage, and the duration for which they are taken.
This is a common side effect observed in patients with colon cancer. Diarrhea is a condition of having frequent loose or liquid bowel movements. It may result in dehydration and significant loss of salts, electrolytes, and other nutrients. Patients with this particular side effect should drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to avoid dehydration. The condition may also be managed by taking anti-diarrheal medications on the prescription of a doctor. Diarrhea may sometimes lead to a very serious condition, and it may become necessary to reduce the dose of chemotherapy.
Mouth ulcer is an open sore inside the mouth caused due to a ruptured mucous membrane. It is also one of the side effects for the patients undergoing the treatment. Such patients should rinse their mouth with sterile water or a mouth wash in order to cure these ulcers. They should also avoid hot and spicy foods, which might irritate the mouth and consume popsicles or soft cold foods instead.
Drop in Blood Cell Count
The cells in the bone marrow, digestive tract, and hair follicles, which divide rapidly under normal circumstances may also get harmed during the cancer treatment. This may result in myelosuppression or decreased production of blood cells. A low hemoglobin count results in anemia and makes the patient feel tired or short of breath. There is also an increased risk of low platelet count, which may lead to easy bruising and bleeding.
There are some eye problems which have been reported by the patients as a side effect of the chemotherapy treatment. These temporary problems may include gritty or watery eyes, which may be treated with lubricating drops like normal saline.
The nails of the patient may become dark, brittle, and chipped during the treatment. However, these are temporary changes which fade away when the treatment stops.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is the sensation of unease and discomfort in the stomach with an urge to vomit. There are several types of medications available to treat nausea and vomiting. It is advisable for such patients to have a bland diet and drink plenty of fluids during this condition.
Rash or Itchy Skin
The skin of the patients undergoing chemotherapy may darken and develop a rash or itchy sensation. The darkened area is seen particularly around the veins where the drugs are administered. These effects are also temporary; however, the patient may become sensitive to sunlight while undergoing the treatment. Hence, it is advisable to use sunscreen and avoid exposure to sun.
Apart from the aforementioned side effects, temporary hair loss, thinning hair, and temporary bruising may also be observed in patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.