What Is the Risk of Chemotherapy?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
Chemotherapy is damaging to a developing fetus.
Chemotherapy is damaging to a developing fetus.

For most patients, the risk of chemotherapy is much less severe than the risk of leaving cancer untreated, but there are some potentially serious side effects to consider. One of the most common issues people deal with while undergoing chemotherapy is fatigue, which often goes hand in hand with other potentially debilitating or discomforting issues such as severe nausea and hair loss, but these problems aren’t usually dangerous and most will normally go away after treatment is over. A more serious risk of chemotherapy is the potential for damage to the immune system, which could make the body extremely vulnerable to a variety of illnesses. Some people may also suffer serious organ or nervous system damage during chemotherapy treatment, and sometimes these issues may persist on a long-term basis. Chemo during pregnancy has the potential to cause fetal damage, so use of birth control while treatments are underway is often recommended.

Chemotherapy is often administered at infusion centers, where trained professionals can watch for adverse reactions.
Chemotherapy is often administered at infusion centers, where trained professionals can watch for adverse reactions.

Cancer cells are essentially just regular body cells that have mutated so that they don’t die when they are scheduled to, causing accumulations of excess cells that eventually form into growths. The different varieties of chemotherapy are generally designed to attack and destroy cells in the body, and they will usually damage cancer cells along with other cells that may have a positive function. When doctors use chemotherapy, they are usually intending to target the person’s entire body to clean out any potential spreading that may have happened, so the treatments can affect a wide variety of body systems, leading to many varying symptoms. Ideally, these symptoms will be temporary and manageable, but the primary risk of chemotherapy is that the cell damage will have a serious negative effect of some kind.

For most patients, the risk of chemotherapy is much less severe than the risk of leaving cancer untreated, but there are some potentially serious side effects to consider.
For most patients, the risk of chemotherapy is much less severe than the risk of leaving cancer untreated, but there are some potentially serious side effects to consider.

Since chemotherapy damages cells and often has a somewhat toxic effect on the body, there is sometimes a serious risk to the fetus if women have chemotherapy while they are pregnant. Doctors believe this risk is magnified during the very early stage of pregnancy, but depending on the exact treatment, danger can potentially exist during all stages. Some men and women also have various problems with fertility because of chemotherapy treatments.

Some women and men experience fertility problems as the result of chemotherapy treatments.
Some women and men experience fertility problems as the result of chemotherapy treatments.

Damage to the body’s immune response is generally thought to be a serious risk of chemotherapy because the white blood cells can sometimes be destroyed during the treatments, leading to a compromised ability to resist disease. This could result in minor issues, such as catching a cold, or something more serious like a life-threatening infection. Doctors are generally prepared for these risks and they normally take several precautions to avoid them.

Another serious danger of chemotherapy is the potential for long-term organ or nervous system damage, leading to problems such as compromised memory, breathing difficulties, and other health issues that persist long after treatment is over. The potential for these sorts of risks varies a lot depending on the exact kind of chemotherapy treatment and the specific situation with the patient in question. Doctors are always looking for ways to minimize these risks, and for most patients, the long-term risk of cancer has more potential danger than the risk of long-term chemotherapy damage.

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    • Chemotherapy is damaging to a developing fetus.
      By: igorborodin
      Chemotherapy is damaging to a developing fetus.
    • Chemotherapy is often administered at infusion centers, where trained professionals can watch for adverse reactions.
      By: Monkey Business
      Chemotherapy is often administered at infusion centers, where trained professionals can watch for adverse reactions.
    • For most patients, the risk of chemotherapy is much less severe than the risk of leaving cancer untreated, but there are some potentially serious side effects to consider.
      By: prudkov
      For most patients, the risk of chemotherapy is much less severe than the risk of leaving cancer untreated, but there are some potentially serious side effects to consider.
    • Some women and men experience fertility problems as the result of chemotherapy treatments.
      By: JPC-PROD
      Some women and men experience fertility problems as the result of chemotherapy treatments.