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What to Expect after Chemotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer

Chemotherapy affects normal cells as well as cancer cells. The possible side effects depend on what kind of drug you take and the dose.

These are common side effects of chemotherapy:

  • Nausea and vomiting. This can be well-controlled with medication most of the time 

  • Temorary hair loss

  • Mouth sores. A feeding tube can help you maintain nutrition during the time when it may be difficult to eat. 

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue

Other common side effects are a decrease in 1 of these blood counts:

  • A decrease in the white cell count is called leukopenia. This is an important risk factor for infection. If you run a fever during chemotherapy, tell your doctor or nurse right away.

  • A decrease in platelets is called thrombocytopenia. It is a risk factor for bleeding. Tell your doctor or nurse about any bleeding or easy bruising during chemotherapy.

  • A decrease in red blood cells is called anemia. It causes fatigue, weakness, and lack of energy. These symptoms should be reported to your doctor or nurse.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Last Review Date: 11/24/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.