Side effects of chemotherapy

Some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy include low blood count, sore mouth, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, sun sensitivity, hair loss and fatigue.

Many children with cancer experience fatigue (extreme tiredness). Many children are experiencing fatigue at the time of diagnosis. Most children with cancer experience fatigue during treatment.

Nausea and vomiting are common problems during cycles of chemotherapy, and can sometimes last for several days after the chemotherapy treatment stops. 

Loss of appetite for food (anorexia) is one of the most common problems caused by cancer treatment. Your child's healthcare team will monitor your child's weight carefully during treatment.

Medicines your child has during cancer treatment can sometimes bring about taste changes.

Constipation is when a child is doing poo less often than usual, and/or is having difficulty doing poo, and/or the poo is hard.

Hair loss happens when chemotherapy interrupts normal hair growth. Hair loss is usually temporary and your child's hair may regrow even before treatment ends.

The lining of your child's mouth and throat becomes weak during chemotherapy treatment. This can lead to inflammation and ulcers. Good mouth care will help avoid infection and will make things more comfortable for your child.

Blood cells are the normal cells most often affected by chemotherapy. A low blood count means having fewer new cells in the blood than is normal.

A low white cell count is called neutropenia. Neutropenia leads to an increased infection risk. If your child is neutropenic and gets an infection, they can become seriously ill quickly.

A low red blood cell count is called anaemia. It causes tiredness, shortness of breath, pale skin and gums, headache and dizziness.

A low platelet count is called thrombocytopenia. Signs of a low platelet count are bruising, bleeding from the nose, gums or other parts of the body, black poo, or vomit with specks of blood in it.

Chemotherapy will make your child's skin more sensitive to the sun and more likely to burn more easily. Sunscreen (SPF30 or more), a hat and clothing which covers the skin are very important.