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Colon Cancer Treatment Side Effects: Chemotherapy

In the case of chemotherapy, colon cancer treatment side effects depend mainly on the specific drugs used and the dose. In general, anticancer drugs affect cells that divide rapidly, especially:
 
  • Blood cells. These cells fight infection, help the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When drugs affect blood cells, patients are more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, or feel very weak and tired.
     
  • Cells in hair roots. Chemotherapy can cause hair loss. The hair grows back, but sometimes the new hair is somewhat different in color and texture.
     
  • Cells that line the digestive tract. Chemotherapy can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth and lip sores. Many of these side effects can be controlled with drugs.
     

Colon Cancer Treatment Side Effects: Radiation Therapy

The side effects of radiation therapy depend mainly on the amount of radiation given and the part of the body that is treated. Radiation therapy to the abdomen and pelvis may cause:
 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stools
  • Rectal leakage
  • Urinary discomfort.
     
In addition, the skin in the treated area may become red, dry, and tender.
 
Patients are likely to become very tired during radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise patients to try to stay as active as they can.
 
Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be distressing, the doctor can usually treat or control them.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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