Effects of Chemotherapy on the Body

Published: 01 Mar 2018

Finding out information about the side-effects your chemotherapy treatment can be just as scary as your diagnosis.  However learning as much as you can about what side-effects you may experience can help you to understand and cope.  In this blog we will give you an introduction to some of the side effects of chemo, what to expect, and some simple remedies.

It is important to note that everyone is unique.  Different drugs and treatment regimens will have varying effects on symptoms.  Some may experience all of the side effects that we’ll talk about here, while others may only experience a few.  We will cover some of the most common drugs in an upcoming blog.

Effects on your mouth and digestion

Mouth sores

Mouth sores develop as your mouth is host to rapidly dividing cells much like your hair, so chemo drugs can irritate the area.



Uncomfortable symptoms on your digestive tract, intestines and bowel can develop.



Can last for varying amounts of time after treatment – if this stops you from eating, it can lead to weight loss.


Managing symptoms

Try to consume easy-to-digest foods like smoothies and soup – if you are looking for some inspiration check out our blogs; 6 super soups and 6 sensational smoothies.

Effects on your blood

Red Blood Cells and Platelets

Red blood cells are necessary for transporting oxygen and nutrients around your body.


Platelets are important for normal blood clotting and when diminished they can affect bruising and cuts.


Managing symptoms

In terms of your red blood cells, rest regularly and if you exercise – make sure to do so gently.  If you’re a smoker, quitting or heavily cutting down will reduce your fatigue (among many other benefits).  For your platelets, be extra vigilant around sharp objects and the corners of surfaces – if you are cut then wash it out thoroughly, limit the blood flow (by applying pressure to the area), and wrap with a bandage as soon as you can.

White Blood Cells

White blood cells come in many different forms and are the first line of defence in your body against infection.  A reduction in these will leave you more susceptible to infections.  You may find yourself contracting colds more often and taking longer to shake them off.


Managing symptoms

To combat this, be sure to wash your hands regularly and if possible stay away from dirty areas (such as public toilets), be extra vigilant around friends and family who are ill.  Be sure to keep up your intake of vegetables and fruits that are high in vitamins and nutrients to boost your immune system (but not so much that you aggravate your delicate digestive system).

Effects on the Reproductive System

Chemotherapy also has adverse effects on reproductive systems in both men and women, with more symptoms occurring in women.

Symptoms in women:

Symptoms in men:

Managing symptoms

Make sure to maintain high hygiene standards and delicately (and chemical-free) moisturise.  Soft and looser fitting underwear may help prevent further irritation.  If this is causing significant discomfort, as always, consult your doctor for remedies.

Despite these symptoms, many patients are still able to live active sex lives.

Effects on the Kidneys and Bladder

These organs filter the treatment chemicals out of your body.  However, they can suffer damage through this process and this will result in irritation or inflammation.


Managing symptoms

Drinking plenty of water will help these organs flush your body and help curb these symptoms.  Read our previous blog on the importance of staying hydrated.

Effects on your Mental State

The mental effects can be numerous and highly dependent on the individual and treatments given – if you would like to find out what these may be, read our blogs about the signs of depression and anxiety and managing anxiety here (next month we will have a blog about managing the symptoms of depression)


These are some of the most common side effects of chemo.  As always please consult your doctor if you are concerned about any of your symptoms, they will be a great source of additional information and can advise you on medications and treatments that can help your individual case.


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