The American Cancer Society (ACS) website mentions the well known and frequently discussed chemotherapy side effects such as hair loss, darkened nails, loss of appetite or increased appetite, nausea and vomiting and low blood cell counts as well as some other possible side effects, mouth sores, potential infections, bruising, and fatigue.
They also explain some of the less known and rarely discussed chemotherapy side effects that can occur either temporarily, long term or permanently:
- Menstrual changes – premature menopause or infertility
- Neuropathy – nerve damage with symptoms of numbness, pain, burning or tingling sensations, temperature sensitivities and weakness
- Heart damage – can be permanent and not detected until decades later
- Hand-foot syndrome – affects the palms of the hands and bottom of the feet
- Chemo brain – affects mental function, concentration and memory
- Increased risk of leukemia – from permanent damage to the bone marrow or compromised white blood cells
- Feeling unwell or tired – general feeling of not being well, aches, pains and less physical functioning
The possibility of these side effects occurring depends upon several factors, the type of chemo drug, amount, frequency and length of time taken. It is important for cancer patients to know in advance what they are agreeing to when signing pre-treatment release documents. There are misconceptions and controversies about chemotherapy but it is clear from the possible side effects that it can be very harmful to the body, mind and spirit, and sometimes deadly.
It is good to know that this information is available on the ACS website even though most people do not consider the long-term or permanent consequences of reaching or exceeding a goal of five years of life. There are cancer patients living decades beyond five years after chemotherapy who need to know how decisions made to extend their lives could interfere with or ruin the quality of their lives in the future.