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Effects of chemotherapy

Updated on January 30, 2014

Bone marrow suppression

Bone marrow suppression leads to decreased White blood cell count otherwise known as Immunosuppression,  decreased Platelet count or Thrombocytopenia, and decreased Hemoglobin and Hematocrit also known as Anemia.

Patients should avoid crowds, people with infections, and small children because they are highly susceptible to diseases. Avoiding undercooked meat and raw fruits and vegetables is also advised. The use of electric razor only when shaving as well as dental work and other invasive procedures should also be avoided so as to prevent bleeding tendencies. In addition, intake of aspirin and aspirin-containing products should also be avoided. Contact sports should also be avoided to prevent trauma, if trauma does occur, apply ice to the area and seek medical assistance.

Gastrointestinal irritation

Anorexia (loss of appetite), diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, as well as stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth), mucositosis, and xerostomia (dry mouth) are some of the side effects of chemotherapy.

Client education for maintaining adequate nutrition, fluid, and electrolyte balance is important. Allow them to eat small, frequent meals, and avoid spicy and fatty foods. Administration of antiemetics prior to chemotherapy and weighing the client routinely and monitoring for weight loss would help manage inadequate nutrition and fluid and electrolyte imbalance. As for stomatitis and mucositosis, the use of soft, toothbrush would help prevent pain and bleeding. Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol and lemon glycerin swabs or dental floss so as to prevent mouth irritation.Chlorhexidine mouthwash is used to decrease the risk of hemorrhage and protect gums from trauma. Consider the use of "artificial saliva" and hard candy or mints to help with the dryness of the mouth. Avoidance of smoking and alcohol is a must for it can further irritate the oral mucosa. Drink cool liquids and avoid hot and irritating foods.

Alopecia and Fatigue

Alopecia also known as hair loss is common among patients undergoing chemotherapy. Hair loss is temporary and will grow back usually beginning about one month after completion of the chemotherapy. Fatigue is almost present in all kinds of treatment including surgeries because of the body trying to recover itself from certain changes made to the body.

The client should be told that the texture and color of the new hair growth may be different. encourage th client to choose a wig before hair loss occurs in order to match hair texture and color. Care of hair and scalp includes washing hair two or three times a week with a mild shampoo. Pat hair dry, do not use a blow drying. For clients experiencing weakness, assure the client that fatigue is normal response to chemotherapy and that it does not indicate progression of disease.


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