One of the most well-known treatments for cancer is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves using powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, along with treating cancer, chemotherapy can also cause some serious and difficult side effects. The side effects occur because along with killing cancer cells, the drugs can also damage healthy cells. Some commonly affected cells are bone marrow cells, cells in the mouth, cells in the digestive tract, and hair follicles.

Not everyone who has chemotherapy experiences side effects. In addition, not everyone who has side effects has the same ones. There are certain side effects that the doctor may be able to treat even before they occur.

Knowing the kinds of side effects your older family member could encounter due to chemotherapy can help you to prepare for them and ease the senior’s discomfort. Below are some common side effects that may occur with chemotherapy.

“Chemo Brain”

Elder Care Cornelius, NC: Chemotherapy Side Effects

People who are undergoing chemotherapy often describe a kind of brain fog or “chemo brain.” They have difficulty with memory and thinking. Some things that may help with chemo brain are:

  • Following a routine.
  • Keeping a notebook handy for notes.
  • Using a daily planner.
  • Keeping distractions to a minimum.
  • Using a pill box to organize medications.


Chemotherapy can sometimes cause anemia because it damages the cells that create red blood cells. Anemia can cause fatigue. Depending on how severe the anemia is, the doctor may suggest supplements like iron and vitamin B12 or a blood transfusion may be necessary. At home, you can help your older family member to deal with anemia by serving foods that are good sources of iron, such as spinach, beans, and red meat.

Nerve Damage

Chemotherapy can damage nerves, causing tingling, numbness, or weakness in hands and feet. To manage nerve damage:

  • Wear shoes to protect feet.
  • Wear gloves to protect hands when cooking or working outside.
  • Use anti-slip mats in the bath or shower.
  • Use a cane or walker for balance.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are a common issue with chemotherapy. They can happen before treatment, during treatment, or afterward. There are medications that can help. The doctor will decide which ones are best based on the chemotherapy medications the senior is receiving. Other things that will help with nausea and vomiting are:

  • Eat many small meals instead of three large ones.
  • Sip clear liquids throughout the day.
  • Plan eating around chemotherapy treatments. What works for your aging relative may differ from what works for others. Try different things to see if eating before treatment helps or of it is better for them to receive treatment when their stomach is empty.

When your older family member experiences side effects due to chemotherapy, elder care can help with managing them. An elder care provider can offer small meals that are easy on the stomach throughout the day. Elder care providers can also remind the senior when it is time to take medications or when appointments are coming up.


If you or an aging loved one are considering in elder care in Cornelius, NC, please call the professional staff at Caring at Heart today at (704) 379-7510. Serving Charlotte, Statesville, Ballantyne, Mooresville, Huntersville, Matthews, Concord, Gastonia, Pineville and Indian Trail.