Colon Cancer Treatments Chemotherapy Coping

Chemotherapy has many side effects, the most common and well known of which include nausea, vomiting and hair loss.

Other side effects of chemotherapy vary with amount of treatment, medications and drugs being taken and a number of other factors.

Causes of Chemotherapy Side Effects

Along with killing the cancerous cells the treatment is meant to kill, chemotherapy also affects healthy cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy most often affects cells in the:

  • bone marrow
  • digestive tract
  • hair follicles
  • mouth cells
  • reproductive system.

In some instances, cells in the heart, kidney, lungs, bladder and nervous system are affected.

While chemotherapy patients worry greatly about side effects, they are often not as bad as patients anticipate. Understanding the cause of side effects is important when dealing with them.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Not all chemotherapy patients will experience every chemotherapy side effect, and some people experience far less severe side effects than others. Along with hair loss, fatigue and nausea, the most common chemotherapy side effects include:

  • anemia
  • appetite changes
  • increased bruising and bleeding
  • infection
  • problems with the intestines, nerves and muscles
  • soreness in the mouth, gums or throat.

Coping with Chemotherapy Side Effects

Chemotherapy patients should discuss any side effects and possible side effects of the treatment with their doctor. Medical professionals can often prescribe medication that will lessen or prevent some of the side effects of chemotherapy.

The most important thing to remember if side effects occur is that they are usually temporary. The positive lasting effects of chemotherapy treatment outweigh the side effects that patients only have to go through for a short time.

Nausea can be dealt with by changing eating patterns and schedules based on chemotherapy treatment schedules. Wearing loose fitting clothes and using deep breathing and relaxation techniques can also help patients deal with nausea and vomiting.

Hair loss can be helped with the used of gentle or mild shampoos, soft hair brushes, avoiding or lessening the use of blow dryers, getting a short haircut and using a satin pillowcase. Hair loss is most often temporary, although hair texture and color can change after it grows back.

Those who are sensitive about hair loss may consider head scarves or wigs. People who choose to wear wigs may want to consider picking out a wig before hair loss occurs, as it’s easier to choose a wig that matches natural hair color and texture.

Most side effects will disappear shortly after treatment ends, as healthy cells have a chance to re-build themselves.

However, if lasting side effects do result from chemotherapy, there are still treatments available that can make symptoms less severe.

Other Coping Techniques

Positive thinking can go a long way during chemotherapy treatment. Keeping treatment goals and positive thoughts in mind will greatly help the recovery process.

Healthy eating is also a great way to cope, as nourishment will help the body heal.

Ask a doctor any questions you have about treatment, side effects and steps to take after chemotherapy treatment. Confusion will only lead to worry, so learning as much as possible is recommended.

Finding new hobbies or skills can be beneficial during chemotherapy treatment, as they may take a patient’s mind off of side effects. However, it’s important to remember to rest often, as chemotherapy often saps people of their previous energy levels.

To put the mind at ease, ask a medical profession about breathing and relaxation techniques, such as:

  • biofeedback
  • distraction
  • hypnosis
  • rhythmic breathing
  • visualization and mental imagery.

All of these techniques can help put the body at ease, which will help patients cope with chemotherapy treatment side effects.


American Cancer Society (2007). Managing Side Effects. Retrieved June 20, 2007, from the American Cancer Society / Web site: