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What is Chemotherapy and what are the adverse effects of cancer chemotherapy?

Treating cancer with administration of drugs is called chemotherapy

The most common side effect of cancer chemotherapy is nausea, which may or may not be accompanied by vomitting.

Invariably all chemotherapeutic agents affect bone marrow function. This is called myelosuppression. The cellular component of blood are affected as they are produced in bone marrow in different.

Neutrophils are most susceptible
Platelets are less susceptible
Red blood cells are the least susceptible of them.

Drugs which are highly emetogenic are

1. Mechlorethamine
2. Nitrosoureas
3. Streptozocin
5. Cisplatin
6. Actinomycin

Very well know adverse effect is alopecia. The drugs vary in their effect but those causing total alopecia even when given at therapeutic doses are

1. Anthracycline
2. Alkylating agents
3. Topoisomerase inhibitors

All agents have increased risk during pregnancy and the risk is more so in first trimester.

Azoospermia and stopping of ovulation is seen with alkylating agents.

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1) By Unknown photographer/artist, National Cancer Institute [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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