Side Effects

The medicine attacks fast-growing cells. It can also hurt healthy cells and lead to side effects. Side effects vary. The type of medicine and type of healthy cells affected will determine what symptoms there are.

Damage to healthy cells that line the mouth, stomach, and intestines can cause:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of hunger
  • Mouth sores

Damage to blood cells can lead to:

  • Anemia—low red blood cell count
  • Weakened immune system with a higher risk of infections
  • Tiredness
  • Easy bruising and bleeding

Hair loss may be caused by damage to cells at the hair roots.

Other areas that may be harmed:

  • Nerves—damage or irritation may cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet called peripheral neuropathy
  • Kidney—medicines can pass into urine and damage kidneys
  • Heart—certain medicines can harm the heart muscle
  • Reproductive organs—some chemotherapy medicines may cause:
    • Infertility
    • Menstrual cycle problems

The medical team will choose a plan that works best and has the fewest problems. Other methods may also help manage problems.



This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.