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Side Effects of Chemotherapy for Cancers of the Female Reproductive System


Side Effects of Chemotherapy for Cancers of the Female Reproductive System

The side effects of chemotherapy for cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, or endometrial cancer depend on the medicines you receive. As with other types of treatment, side effects vary from woman to woman.

Possible side effects include:

  • Bruising, bleeding, infections, and anemia. In general, chemotherapy affects rapidly growing and dividing cells. These include blood cells, which fight infection, cause the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When blood cells are affected by chemotherapy, you are more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, and have less energy during and after treatment.
  • Nausea and vomiting. The drugs that are used to treat cancer can cause severe nausea and vomiting. Your oncologist may prescribe antinausea medicines to help with these symptoms, and you can try home treatment measures. Also, watch for early signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth, sticky saliva, and reduced urine output with dark yellow urine. Contact your doctor if your medicines do not control your nausea and vomiting or you have signs of dehydration.
  • Changes in mental awareness. Some women have changes in their ability to think, learn, reason, and remember (cognitive function) during the first months or years after some types of chemotherapy. These changes return to normal over time.
  • Urinary and sexual problems. Treatment with chemotherapy may cause vaginal dryness or leakage of urine. Some women may have a decreased desire for sex. Although most women report mild changes in their physical and emotional well-being, some women may continue to have quality-of-life issues for many years after treatment.
  • Hair loss. Some drugs cause more hair loss than others. Hair does grow back after treatment ends.
  • Mouth sores and loss of appetite. A few drugs may be more likely to cause mouth sores than others. Many drugs cause a loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue.

Many of these side effects can be helped. Side effects generally are short-term problems. They gradually go away during the recovery part of the chemotherapy cycle or after the treatment is over. With modern chemotherapy, long-term side effects, although possible, are less common than in the past.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMichael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
Last RevisedOctober 31, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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