Since chemotherapy is a drug based treatment, there are going to be certain side effects for patients. For small cell lung cancer patients, the treatment is typically administered for six to eight cycles and then discontinued to prevent any long term side effects. During the course of the treatment other medication may be prescribed to the patients to relieve the associated discomfort of these side effects.
What Are The Side Effects Of Chemotherapy?
The most well-known of side effects from chemotherapy is bone marrow failure in patients. To monitor this issue, oncologists take blood samples before every treatment cycle to determine the patient’s full blood count and where white blood cell or platelet count appears to be low, the treatment is recommended to be stalled for a week or two.
A common side effect associated with chemotherapy is experiencing nausea and vomiting. These side effects can considerably impact the quality of life for patients. Drugs used in chemotherapy can cause the patient to feel sick but the issue can be addressed quite successfully by using other medication that curb these side effects. Sometimes oral medication alone is prescribed but in cases where oral medication may not be tolerated well, intravenous interventions can be carried out. Medical staff may also advise the patient to stick with more fluid intake, including soups and smoothies or have smaller meals during the day.
Some drugs may also cause mouth sores and ulcers to occur. The affected area may include ulcers on the mouth, lips or throat. Typically this happens a week after receiving chemotherapy. The discomfort may be enough to prevent the patient from eating temporarily. Again, using more fluids is recommended. Good oral hygiene is also recommended for patients who suffer from these uncomfortable symptoms.
A very noticeable side effect of ongoing chemotherapy is hair loss. For most patients this happens three to four weeks into the therapy. The good news is that most patients will have their hair regrow back around three months after therapy concludes. During the course of the treatment, patients may wish to use a hair wig, scarves or hats to conceal the hair loss.
The drugs involved in the chemotherapy treatment may also cause the patient’s immune system to weaken. A compromised immune system can make the individual more susceptible to infections. Weakened immunity in patients can often surface as high fevers, temperatures, flu, chills and shivering. It is important to report immediately to a medical facility if any of these symptoms occur as sometimes strong antibiotics need to be administered to control and relieve these symptoms.
Occasionally, patients may suffer from anaemia that can be caused by chemotherapy. Anaemia may be accompanied by other symptoms like dizziness and fatigue.
Extreme abdominal pain and diarrhoea ranging from mild to severe can also occur in patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. As a result patients may experience a loss of appetite leading to physical weakness. To keep things under control, fluid intake and electrolyte replacement is recommended. Once the patient’s white cell count recovers, diarrhoea will likely resolve.
1) Chemotherapy in Palliative Medicine: http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/~vchan/Chemotherapy.htm
2) Lung Cancer: http://www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/20101-09-Lung-Cancer.pdf
3) Combined Chemotherapy & Radiotherapy for Small Cell Lung Cancer: http://www.swslhd.nsw.gov.au/cancer/pdf/Lung/Combined%20SCLC%20Jul07.pdf