Oncowin Cancer Center

Strategies for Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects: A Comprehensive Guide

Chemotherapy is the most common treatment to fight cancer. This therapy is typically used to kill cancer cells in your body and it can also be used to control cancer cell growth. Chemo helps you relieve disease-related symptoms.

The strong nature of chemotherapy often results in side effects in patients.

One of the best ways to fight chemotherapy side effects is to stay in touch with your cancer specialist team. Your doctor needs to be aware of each side effect, as well as its intensity and frequency, to help you overcome them.

Let’s go through chemotherapy side effects one by one to help you understand what to expect and how to deal with chemotherapy.

Common Chemotherapy Side Effects

Nausea and vomiting

Chemotherapy might make you feel like you’re going to throw up or cause vomiting. This happens because it can bother your brain parts that control nausea or the lining of your digestive system.


You might feel unusually tired, weak, or low on energy. This can range from just feeling a bit tired to feeling extremely worn out. It can happen slowly or quickly build up over time.

Hair loss or hair thinning

Some chemotherapy can make your hair thin out or fall out entirely. This usually starts a few weeks after your first chemo treatment. Don’t worry, though – your hair should start growing again a few months after your last treatment. You might experience different colors or textures of your hair.


Chemotherapy can lead to loose or watery bowel movements or having more bowel movements than usual. This can cause diarrhea.

Skin and nail changes

Chemotherapy can affect your skin and nails. Your skin, nails, tongue, and even the veins where you got chemotherapy might darken. Also, your skin might become dry and itchy. Your nails might become weak, brittle, and prone to cracking.

Neuropathy (numbness or tingling in hands and feet)

Chemotherapy can cause nerve damage in your feet and hands. You might feel numbness or tingling in your fingers, toes, or both. This sensation could last for a short time or longer, depending on your treatment duration. Your medical team or doctor can adjust your medication or chemotherapy dose to help ease these symptoms.

Weakened immune system

Chemotherapy can weaken your immune system and build a condition called neutropenia. Neutropenia happens when you have a low count of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that fights infections. With neutropenia, you’re more vulnerable to infections. In this case, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions to prevent infections until your neutrophil count returns to normal.

Increased risk of bleeding

After chemotherapy, your platelet count might drop for 10 to 14 days. Platelets help your blood clot, so a low count means your body might struggle to stop bleeding or bruising.

Long-term Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Heart-related Conditions

Chemotherapy can also lead you to long-term effects on the heart, such as:

  • Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Valvular disease
  • Stroke

These heart-related side effects might be more noticeable if you also have other treatments in the same part of your body, like radiation therapy for lung cancer.

Lung Conditions

Chemotherapy can lead to lung issues, including:

  • Less lung capacity
  • Pulmonary fibrosis, which means more scar tissue in your lungs
  • Lung inflammation
  • Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath

Certain drugs or treatments, like radiation to the chest for lung cancer, can raise the risk of lung problems. If you’re at high risk for lung issues, talk to our cancer specialists about the best cancer treatment options for you.

Bone Conditions

Chemotherapy can affect your bones, possibly causing conditions like osteoporosis, where bones become thin.

Apart from fighting cancer, chemotherapy can also harm healthy cells. This might speed up bone loss, leading to fractures. Chemotherapy can also cause issues with diet and increase the chance of bone problems due to a lack of vitamin D.

Other treatments, like hormone therapies, can also impact bone health. People undergoing hormone therapy for cancer might notice changes in their bone density.

Your doctors might suggest measuring your bone density before starting treatment. This helps them understand how treatment affects your bones and allows them to recommend extra treatments or precautions for those at risk of bone loss.

Cognitive difficulties

Chemotherapy can cause mental fogginess, also known as “chemo brain,” both during and after treatment. This can lead to issues with memory, focus, and doing multiple tasks at once. Sometimes, these challenges can stick around with you for years after treatment ends.

It’s not fully clear why chemotherapy affects thinking. Eating well, sleeping enough, and doing brain exercises might help you ease these cognitive problems.

Chemotherapy Side Effects Management Strategies

General Management Techniques:

Diet and Nutrition

Eating rich fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help support your body during chemotherapy. Avoid eating processed foods and sugary snacks while you manage side effects.


Drink a good amount of water to prevent dehydration and flush out toxins from your body, which is important during chemotherapy.


Start gentle exercises like walking or yoga. This can help combat fatigue, improve mood, and maintain strength during treatment. Always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise.

Sleep Hygiene

Schedule a regular sleep routine and a relaxing bedtime to improve sleep quality, which is important for overall well-being during chemotherapy. Avoid caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime for better sleep.

Talk to Your Doctor

Your expert cancer doctor is the best resource for gaining information about how to manage chemotherapy side effects. They can suggest medications and strategies and answer any queries you have.

Specific Strategies for Pain Management During Chemotherapy

Nausea and vomiting

How to manage

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking anti-nausea medication.
  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of liquids on a daily basis to avoid dehydration. Choose water, diluted juices, or electrolyte-containing drinks like Pedialyte.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks such as dark coffee, tea, and soda.
  • Eat small meals frequently throughout the day.
  • Stay away from greasy foods like fried and junk foods.
  • Consider trying acupressure treatment for nausea and vomiting relief. Acupressure involves applying pressure to particular points on your body and is based on traditional Chinese medicine principles.

Consult your doctor if you:

  • Vomit 3 to 5 times in a day
  • Experience ongoing nausea even after taking anti-nausea meds
  • Can’t keep liquids down without vomiting
  • Feel dizzy or lightheaded
  • Have stomach pain or heartburn

2 Fatigue

How to manage

  • Take rest breaks when feeling tired.
    • Short naps and bedtimes of 15 to 20 minutes can help.
    • Shorter naps improve daytime fatigue and nighttime sleep quality.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family and friends with tiring tasks.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink 8 to 10 glasses (8 ounces each) of non-caffeinated liquids daily.
  • Plan your activities and tasks on days and during times when you feel more energized.

Consult your doctor if you:

  • Feel extremely tired despite resting
  • Experience persistent fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest
  • Feel weak or unable to perform daily activities
  • Notice unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Develop a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • Notice changes in vision or hearing

3 Hair loss or hair thinning

How to manage

  • Consider cutting your hair short before getting treatment if it’s long.
  • Wash and condition your hair every 3 to 4 days using gentle baby shampoo or mild products.
  • Look for shampoos and conditioners with sunscreen to protect your scalp from sun damage.
  • Keep your head covered in the summer to shield it from the sun.
  • During winter, wear a hat, scarf, turban, or wig to keep your head warm and contain any hair that falls out.
  • Sleep on a silk pillow to reduce hair tangles.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about scalp cooling treatment (using a cold cap) to see if it’s right for you.

4 Diarrhea

How to manage

  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of liquids on a daily basis, including water and drinks with electrolytes like Gatorade or Pedialyte.
  • Take an anti-diarrheal like Imodium unless your doctor says no.
  • Wait 12 hours after diarrhea stops before using stool softeners or laxatives.
  • Avoid spicy, high-fiber, high-fat, and caffeinated foods and drinks.
  • Eat small portions of soft, bland foods like white bread, pasta, rice, and yogurt at room temperature.
  • Follow the BRATY diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, and yogurt.

Consult your doctor if:

  • You have 3-4 or more loose, watery bowel movements that don’t improve with medication.
  • Experience belly pain and cramping along with diarrhea.
  • Diarrhea persists even after following the diet for 2 days.
  • You notice irritation around your anus or rectum that doesn’t disappear.
  • There’s blood in your bowel movements.

5 Skin and nail changes

How to manage

  • Keep your hands and feet moisturized using scent-free creams like Eucerin®, CeraVe®, or Aquaphor®.
  • Stay out of direct sunlight. Cover up with hats, light-colored pants, and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher in a day.
  • Trim your nails short and keep them smooth.
  • Wear gloves for tasks like gardening, cleaning, or washing dishes.
  • Ask your doctor about nail cooling treatment, where ice packs are used to reduce nail changes during chemotherapy.

Consult your doctor if:

  • Your skin is peeling or blistering.
  • You develop a rash or new bumps on your skin.
  • Your cuticles are red and painful.
  • Your nails are peeling or leaking fluid underneath.

6 Neuropathy  

How to manage

  • Make it a habit to move your body often.
  • If you smoke, kick the habit for better health.
  • Keep alcohol intake in check.
  • Wear gloves and warm socks when it’s cold outside.
  • Avoid burns by being extra careful around stoves, ovens, and irons.
  • If your feet feel tingly or numb, wear sturdy shoes and walk carefully.
  • Try acupuncture, a traditional Chinese treatment involving thin needles placed on specific parts of your body.

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Worsening tingling and numbness
  • Difficulty with small tasks like holding a pen or buttoning clothes
  • Tingling or burning and Pain in your fingers or toes
  • Trouble walking or feeling the ground beneath your feet.

7 Weakened immune system

How to manage

  • Stay away from sick people to avoid getting sick yourself.
  • Wash your hands with good soap and water for at least 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering all parts of your hands, and rub until dry.
  • Remember to clean your hands before meals and after touching anything that might have germs.
  • Take a shower with a 4% chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) solution antiseptic skin cleaner as directed by your healthcare provider.

Consult your doctor if:

  • You have a fever of 100.4° F (38° C).
  • You’re shaking or have chills.
  • You notice infection signs like swelling, redness, or pus at a wound site, sore throat, a new cough, or a burning sensation when urinating.

8 Increased risk of bleeding

How to manage

  • Use a soft toothbrush for your teeth and gums.
  • Be careful not to get cuts, scratches, or bumps.
  • Watch out to avoid tripping or falling.
  • If you need to shave, use an electric razor.
  • Avoid activities that could cause injury.


  • Don’t use rectal suppositories or enemas.
  • Avoid activities that could result in injury.

Consult your doctor if you have:

  • Blood in urine, bowel movements, vomit, or when coughing
  • Very dark or black bowel movements
  • Bruising or bleeding from the nose or gums
  • Changes in vision
  • Severe headaches or signs of a stroke, like weakness on one side of the body

Expert Advice for Healing

Chemotherapy is tough, but it helps many people with cancer live longer and feel better. It can have side effects, but knowing about them and talking openly with doctors can help you get rid of chemotherapy side effects easily.

Support from the best cancer doctors, family, and friends is important. They can help you through the tough times and keep you focused on improving. If you’re battling cancer with some serious chemo side effects, reach out to Oncowin Cancer Center provides the best chemotherapy treatment in Ahmedabad.

We’re committed to making your journey through chemotherapy as smooth as possible. Our dedicated healthcare team and cutting-edge facilities provide personalized care and effective chemotherapy treatments. Trust us to guide you toward healing chemo treatment side effects and hope.

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