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8 Common Chemotherapy Side Effects (And How To Lessen Them)

8 Common Chemotherapy Side Effects (And How To Lessen Them)

Home » Health » 8 Common Chemotherapy Side Effects (And How To Lessen Them)

Chemotherapy is the systemic use of anticancer drugs and is still a standard and conventional treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, testicular cancer, ovarian cancer and small number of rare cancers. Eventhough this treatment may prolong life, at the same time, it would also significantly decrease a patient’s quality of life as there are various terrible and uncomfortable side-effects.


Here are the common side effects associated with chemotherapy and countermeasures to minimise such effects. Note that the suggestions listed in this article have not been evaluated with thorough and randomised clinical trials but they are, however, known to stimulate immunity, promote the body’s internal cleansing function and enhance nutrition.

1. Hair Loss

There is anecdotal evidence that hair loss as a result of Adriamycin can be reduced by taking larger dosage of Vitamin E, up to 1,600IU per day. Physicians generally recommend at least 800IU of Vitamin E to patients taking Adriamycin.


2. Nausea

Some research has shown that N-acetylcysteine, an amino acid-like supplement that has demonstrated strong antioxidant activity, may reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Using fresh ginger root daily, a few days prior to chemotherapy, reduces nausea associated with the drug treatment. Interestingly, ginger has been long promoted for stomach upsets and even motion sickness during pregnancy.


Recommended dosage : approximately 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger juice per day. You can add small amounts of finely sliced root to your cooking, or finely grate the ginger, then squeeze the fresh juice into different dishes.


3. Liver Damage

The ripe seeds of milk thistle, which have been used to make herbal remedies for ages, contain the antioxidant silymarin, which is thought to be responsible for milk thistle’s potency in the protecting the liver. In a study published by Cancer, the journal of American Cancer Society, found milk thistle helpful for treating liver inflammation in cancer patients who received chemotherapy. In it, the study revealed that milk thistle could allow patients to take larger doses of chemotherapy without actually damaging their liver.


Various clinical studies have investigated using milk thistle to treat liver damage from cirrhosis (from alcohol) or toxins (such as mushroom poisoning) with positive results.


As such, despite limited study data, milk thistle could and have often been used to treat liver problems associated with chemotherapy.


Recommended dosage : from 300 to 500 milligrams (some studies have shown a slight inflammatory tendency from too much milk thistle, so it is best to have qualified supervision when using this herb.


4. Heart Damage

Some chemotherapy drugs such as Adriamycin (also known as doxorubicin) may damage heart tissue. A number of antitoxidants are capable of reducing this toxicity. In particular, CoQ10, has been found helpful in recommended daily dosages of 120 to 200 milligrams and Vitamin C has been shown to provide protection at recommended dosages of up to 2 grams per day.


This dosage must be based on individual tolerance. One immediate symptom of intolerance or too high a dosage is loose bowel function. Vitamin B2 supplementation may also protect the heart from damage when taking the anticancer chemotherapy drug Adriamycin.


5. Mouth Sores

Chemotherapy often leaves patients with painful mouth sores known as mucositis. According to certain researches, the topical application of 400 IU of Vitamin E, has proven to be helpful. If sores are just inflamed and not opened, gargling saltwater might also help.


6. Malabsorption Problems

A multiple-vitamin and mineral supplement is highly recommended to counteract the negative effect chemotherapy has on nutrient absorption.


7. Palm & Sole Pain

The drug fluorouracil can sometimes cause pain on the skin of the palms and soles. It has been suggested that 200 milligrams daily of Vitamin B6 can reduce or even eliminate this pain.


8. Magnesium Loss

The chemotherapy drug cisplatin frequently leads to magnesium depletion. However, taking excess magnesium in dosages even as low as 350 to 500 milligrams per day can cause diarrhea. Furthermore, person with kidney disease should not be taking magnesium supplements without prior consultation with a physician experienced in nutritional matters.


Alernatively, cisplatin toxicity can be reduced by taking glutathione but this must be given intravenously by a physician.

Madeline Kwan

Madeline graduated with honours in Bachelor of Science Dietetics with Nutrition and is now pursuing the Master Of Science (Health Sciences) course. Currently working as clinical dietitian in a private health institution in Singapore, Madeline shares her passion for nutrition & diet education, repoductive health and general fitness tips by in her articles for YesMyWellness.com. She is also involved in a number of community projects, which includes travelling to rural areas in South East Asia conducting talks, workshops, health checks.

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