Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill fast-growing cells in the body. Because of this, healthy tissues made of fast growing cells can also be affected. Healthy tissues that may be affected include:

  • Hair follicles
  • Cells in the bones that form blood
  • Cells in the mouth and digestive tract
  • Reproductive cells

We experience side effects when chemotherapy harms healthy tissue. Please let your care team know about any side effects you’re experiencing. In some cases, we can help alleviate them.

When to Call Your Provider

Some side effects are more serious than others and may be a sign of infection. Call your doctor immediately if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4F or greater
  • Unexplained bleeding or bleeding that does not stop
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Rapid, irregular heart rate
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Hives, a cut or a rash that swells, turns red, feels hot, painful or beings to ooze
  • Nausea or vomiting for several days
  • Diarrhea for several days, despite Imodium
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Feeling confused, having frequent headaches or trouble seeing

More Resources

“Chemotherapy Side Effects” American Cancer Society

“Managing Cancer-related Side Effects” American Cancer Society