How Chemotherapy Causes Side Effects

While newer therapies are transforming the treatment of cancer, chemotherapy remains the mainstay therapy for many people. These drugs damage or kill fast-growing cells. That’s how they treat cancer.


But in addition to killing malignant cells, they may also damage or kill healthy fast-growing cells, including those in the blood, mouth, digestive system and hair follicles. That may lead to side effects including nausea, fatigue, pain in the feet or hands, sexual dysfunction, hair loss, problems concentrating (“chemo brain”) and susceptibility to infection. You may experience none of these, or just one. But the more you know about them, the better prepared you will be to manage your chemotherapy experience. 


Here are 14 common side effects and the best ways to cope with them.