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Hearing that you have cancer can be one of the most frightening moments in a person’s life. From trying to understand the type of cancer you have to figuring out what the best course of treatment would be, cancer patients carry a heavy load on their minds. It can be confusing trying to determine the best treatment options available for cancer, which led me to put together this guide about what chemotherapy is, and what a patient should know about it before beginning the treatment plan.

What Is Chemotherapy?
Our bodies are constantly working, and part of that work includes the creation and division of healthy cells within the body. Sometimes, the cells can become mutated while growing, and begin growing at an uncontrolled rate. In time, the mutated cells can begin to overtake healthy cells, which is what leads to cancer. Chemotherapy are the drugs that work to prevent these cancerous cells from dividing and growing, by killing the cancerous cells. In other words, chemotherapy works to fight and kill the cancerous cells. Having a strong understanding of chemotherapy is important for patients who are getting ready to begin their treatment, so they know that the side effects could become severe as the body fights the cancerous cells.

Side Effects Of Chemotherapy
While there is no denying that chemotherapy saves countless lives each year, it is incredibly important for patients to be aware of the potential side effects. This can not only help a patient to prepare themselves physically, but mentally as well. According to the American Cancer Society, the parts of the body that are most susceptible to damage from chemotherapy are hair follicles, mouth cells, the digestive tract, and the reproductive system.

According to Medical News Today, the most common side effect of chemotherapy is nausea and/or vomiting. Overall, approximately 70 percent of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy experience nausea and/or vomiting.

Another common side effect of chemotherapy are mucositis, which is when your mucous membrane becomes inflamed. When a patient develops mucositis, they become prone to infection and ulcers throughout their digestive system, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, rectum, and anus.

In other instances, chemotherapy can cause patients to lose their appetite throughout the course of their treatment. While this does not seem like an immediate problem, it can quickly become dangerous if patients are finding that they cannot replenish their much-needed energy after chemotherapy. If a patient experiences a significant loss of appetite, they can try to eat smaller meals frequently throughout the day, in order to ensure that they have the energy to continue treatments.

According to Medical News Today, approximately 75% of patients undergoing chemotherapy report having issues with their short-term memory and ability to keep their attention on something. This is referred to as “chemo-brain,” and can affect a person’s ability to reason and multitask. In most instances, this subsides upon completing the treatment.

When working with a doctor to determine a course of treatment, it is important for patients to not only understand their options, but what the potential side effects are with every treatment that is presented. By staying informed, a patient can be both mentally and physically prepared for their treatment plan.