Ask the Expert: Chemotherapy Side Effects
Oncologist Dr. Steve Eisenberg talks about the common side effects of chemotherapy, including low blood counts, fatigue, nausea, brittle nails, and hair loss. He also discusses how probiotics can help ease some of the stomach issues associated with chemo. View transcript »
Question 1: What are the common side effects of chemotherapy?
When someone's going through a course of chemotherapy, there's many side effects can occur, but the most common are low blood counts. And that can be the white blood cells, the red blood cells and the platelets. You can also expect nausea and vomiting, very common, hair loss or alopecia and generalized fatigue.
Question 2: What kind of digestive problems can patients expect?
It's important to remember that when you're going through chemotherapy, dietary changes are very common. Your appetite can be very diminished and you're nauseous quite often. So how do we combat that? Well, I think it's important to increase vegetables, to decrease bad fats, and use a protein source such as chicken and turkey, cooked very blandly, if you will, so you can tolerate it. Try to stay away from excessively spicy foods, and of course stay away from fast foods. Keep the diet bland with good sources of protein and increase the green vegetables.
Question 3: What dietary changes can lessen these digestive issues?
During chemotherapy digestion goes through extreme changes. I suggest probiotics because they can help rebalance your digestive tract during chemotherapy.
Question 4: What happens to hair and fingernails during chemotherapy?
It's important to note that not every chemotherapy results in hair loss or alopecia. Although the majority of them do, hair loss can happen within three weeks of starting chemotherapy and it'll start to grow again within a month or two of completing chemotherapy. In terms of fingernail changes, what we typically see is hard, brittle nails with coloration changes, discoloration. This can occur again within a month or two of stating chemo, and should recover within a few months upon completion of the regimen.
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