Other issues related to chemotherapy

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Chemotherapy can cause many different issues in addition to hair loss and making you feel sick. Find out about other issues related to chemotherapy and how to manage them.

Key points

  • Some effects of chemotherapy, known as late effects, may not appear until months or even years after treatement ends.
  • It is important to self monitor for late effects and let your health-care team know if you notice any.
  • Chemotherapy can irritate your skin so it is important to ask your health-care team before using anything on your skin, especially if you are receiving radiation treatment.
  • It is important to eat healthy, stay active and avoid cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, and always attend your follow-up appointments.

Long-term or late effects

As you know, cancer treatment may involve taking medications that destroy cells, receiving radiation and even having surgery. These treatments help treat the cancer, but they may have consequences that appear many months or even years later, after the cancer treatments have stopped. These are called "late effects".

The possibility of late effects makes self-monitoring (checking yourself for symptoms) important. You will be responsible for checking for any symptoms of late effects, as you will be the first person to notice any changes that happen to your body. Your health-care team may also refer you to a late effects clinic to help you monitor your health.

Skin care and skin safety

Cancer medications can have negative effects on your skin, making it dry, red and irritable. Your skin needs some extra care during chemotherapy so it can recover.

Do not wear clothes that are rough or scratchy because they can further irritate your skin. Using gentle lotion is a good idea, but make sure to ask your health-care team which lotion is best for your skin. Do not put any lotion or other products on areas of radiation treatment without first checking with your health-care team.

Ensure you use enough sun protection when you are outside, even if it is cloudy or raining. The sun can damage even the strongest skin, regardless of skin colour and cause cancers such as melanoma.

Healthy eating and lifestyle

Eating healthy and staying active are always recommended. Strengthening your body makes it better able to deal with the damaging effects of chemotherapy and radiation and helps it recover more quickly. Be careful about what you put into your body. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and vaping (including e-cigarettes). There are many harmful chemicals in cigarettes and e-cigarettes that can be very dangerous to you and may interact with your cancer medication. Alcohol can also interact with the many different medications you are taking.

See the section on how to make good lifestyle choices while on cancer treatment for more information.

Importance of follow-up

Once your treatment is done and you have finished all your medications, your doctor may tell you you’re cancer free! Although the cancer seems gone, sometimes cancer cells hide in the body and are not detected easily. This means that you may develop cancer again sometime later. This is why it is really important to monitor your health and follow up with a doctor for testing, as recommended. That way, if the cancer does return, it may be caught in its early stages and may be treated more easily.

It’s really important to check yourself for any late effects from chemotherapy and radiation. These late effects are usually long-term and need to be constantly monitored and treated as you grow older. Make sure you contact the doctor immediately if you notice any signs and symptoms that are unusual.​

Last updated: September 3rd 2019