What Are The Side Effects Of Treatment?

We touched on this briefly before, but in general, chemotherapy can cause lowering of the blood cell counts, which may put you at an increased risk for infection, anemia, or bleeding, hair loss, nausea, diarrhea, membrane irritation, and may induce premature menopause, which can present as hot flashes and vaginal dryness or atrophy.

Loss of hair on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, and genitals is distressing and affects a female’s perception of her sexual attractiveness. Chemotherapy-induced early ovarian failure causes menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, and mood problems.

Vaginal dryness can become a serious medical concern and often leads to painful intercourse on penetration. However, each drug that is used in endometrial cancer can cause specific side effects. Cisplatin can cause profound nausea and vomiting, which may persist as much as 7–10 days out from treatment. It can also cause the kidneys to malfunction and a permanent numbness and tingling (or neuropathy). Carboplatin, its cousin, is a lot kinder to patients. It can cause some nausea, but its major toxicity is to lower platelets (which can make you prone to bleeding).

Doxorubicin can affect your heart muscle if a threshold is surpassed. This can present as shortness of breath during activities like walking (called dyspnea on exertion) or even difficulty breathing during sleep. This is due to the weakening of the heart muscle, which can cause congestive heart failure. For this reason, your doctor will pay close attention to the doses you are receiving and may order a baseline heart scan prior to the start of treatment to get a good look at how well your heart is working.

Paclitaxel can affect nerves and can cause numbness or tingling, usually noted in the hands and feet. Patients may also run the risk of developing an allergic reaction when it is given. To prevent this, you may be told to take steroids prior to treatment.

Joan said:

The first three to six days were my worst. The muscle aches and joint pain were tough. I am not one to take more medication than the label says or what is suggested. I probably should have called the chemo unit nurse but it fell on the weekend and I would have had to talk to the doctor on call. I figured weathering it was what it was all about.

WRONG. When I went for my next session, I asked the chemo nurse about upping my pain reliever and she said there was no problem with doubling it for that short time frame. Oh, I should have called that first time!!

Overall, a loss of mental acuity (“cancer brain”) has become a fact of life for now. I frequently have to search for the right word. Fatigue is becoming more pronounced as I progress through my treatment sessions. I am still working full time but look forward to lying down after work for a much needed rest. I don’t often sleep but the resting helps. I also found my face to be extremely itchy. I didn’t lose my eyebrows but as they and my lashes and facial hair thinned out, the dying follicles made my face itch.

I did lose most of my hair the second week after my first chemo session (the time frame is different for each drug given, so ask). I had bought a wig and had shaved off my hair the week before it started falling out. I had already noticed more than normal hair amounts on the comb in the mornings. I didn’t want to have gobs of hair in my hands some morning when I was washing my hair.

My scalp was painful a couple of days before—it’s true that your hair can hurt. I find I’m more comfortable in scarves and turbans than in my wig. Although when I work with customers, I know me being in a wig is more comfortable for them.