Short and Long Term Side-Effects of Chemotherapy

Updated at: Jul 11, 2012
Short and Long Term Side-Effects of Chemotherapy

Short and long term side-effects of chemotherapy: chemotherapy is a medical treatment given to cancer patients to kill the cancerous cells. While the most common short-term side-effect is hair loss, the most common long-term effect is infertility.

Bhadra Kamalasanan
CancerWritten by: Bhadra KamalasananPublished at: Jul 10, 2012

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments that are given to cancer patients. It is a drug therapy that kills abnormally fast growing cells in the body. There are different types of chemotherapy drugs that help treat cancer. Since there are over 100 forms of cancer, it is difficult to define the effectiveness of the therapy in treating them. Like other forms of cancer treatment, chemotherapy has short-term and long-term side-effects.


Short-Term Side-Effects

Some of the short-term side-effects of chemotherapy include:


Hair Loss


Hair loss is a fairly common side-effect of chemotherapy that almost every patient, who has gone through the treatment experiences. Although, hair loss is most visible on the head, it may occur all over the body. Hair loss raises the spectre of worry among people in terms of how he/she may be able to cope up with it, when the hair will grow back, etc.


You may also like to read: Causes of Hair Loss during Chemotherapy.



Some chemotherapy drugs, such as taxanes and cisplatin may cause nerve damage, causing the patient to experience a shooting or burning pain that is usually felt in the toes or fingers. Pain almost always goes away after the chemotherapy treatment has ended, though it may, in some people, take weeks or even months.


Mouth and Throat Sores

Some chemotherapy drugs are strong enough to harm the tissues lining a person’s throat and mouth, thereby causing sores. These sores may make it hard to eat or drink.  Mouth sores, usually, go away once the treatment is over, but it may persist for a while ins some people.


You may also like to read: Sore Throat in Cancer Patients.


Long-Term Side-Effects

Some of the long-term effects of chemotherapy include the following.


Cardiac Concerns

Chemotherapy may drive home the likelihood of cardiac arrests early on in the treatment, though there are chances that it may not show up until later. Adriamycin, a chemotherapy drug, may cause the heart muscle to weaken, thereby causing a decreased ability to pump blood through the body.



Most people undergoing chemotherapy tend to be fatigued most of the time, but for others, this tends to persist even after the treatment if over. While one may presume it to be okay to be fatigued after chemotherapy, it is important to let the doctor know because sometimes, the causes of fatigue are irreversible.



Infertility is a primary concern for younger people with cancer looking forward to going through chemotherapy. Infertility post treatment varies with the doses and the type of chemotherapy medications used. Not everyone going through chemotherapy is affected.


To know more about Chemotherapy, read: Procedure of Chemotherapy.


Alternatively,  read more articles on Chemotherapy.


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