Chemotherapy Principles

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Chemotherapy side effects

Although chemotherapy is given to kill cancer cells, it also damages normal cells. The normal cells most likely to be damaged are those that divide rapidly, for instance:

  • Bone marrow/blood cells
  • Cells of hair follicles
  • Cells lining the digestive tract
  • Cells lining the reproductive tract

Damage to these cells accounts for many of the side effects of chemotherapy drugs. Side effects are different for each chemotherapy drug. They also differ based on the dose, the way the drug is given, and how the drug affects you individually.

If you would like more information on chemotherapy side effects and how to manage them, please call us at 1-800-227-2345, read our booklet called Understanding Chemotherapy: A Guide for Patients and Families, or find more on our Web site at www.cancer.org. You can also find more on side effects in the “To learn more” section.


Last Medical Review: 02/07/2013
Last Revised: 02/07/2013