When you are undergoing cancer treatment your physician will discuss with you possible treatment options and what the short-term and long-term side effects are. Unfortunately, the very treatments that will help you beat cancer have potential side effects that may impact you soon, or even long, after you treatment has ended. While these side effects may not necessarily outweigh the benefits of using the treatment, it is still important to be informed and carefully weigh your treatment decisions. This often leaves people with the question – how long after receiving chemotherapy treatment does the chemotherapy actually leave my body? Does it wear off after a few hours or days like other medications or does it stay in my system much longer? These questions are common and ones that it is important to get the answers to.
Chemotherapy is a medication that works throughout the whole body to attack, and hopefully kill, cancer cells. There are hundreds of different kinds of chemotherapy medications and some are used individually while others may be combined for treatment. Chemotherapy can be administered a number of ways but common ways include orally and intravenously. The chemotherapy itself stays in the body within 2 -3 days of treatment but there are short-term and long-term side effects that patients may experience. Not all patients will experience all side effects but many will experience at least a few. Short term side effects may include hair loss, nausea, fatigue, fingernail and toenail weakness, pain, mouth or throat soreness, loss of menstrual periods, weight gain, insomnia, constipation, diarrhea, anemia, changes in white blood cell count and more. The good news is that many of these symptoms are short-term and will go away once chemotherapy treatment is discontinued.
Long-term side effects of chemotherapy are frustrating but, unfortunately, possible. It is important to go into treatment with eyes open to long-term side effects so that you can make the best decision for your health and wellbeing. Long-term side effects may include higher risk of infection, heart problems, lung problems, endocrine system problems, loss of fertility, early menopause, diminished cognitive function, nerve damage, reduced lung capacity, hearing loss, increased risk of stroke, loss of tooth enamel and dental problems and more. Some of these long-term side effects are associated with certain forms of chemotherapy so it is best to discuss potential side effects of the specific types of chemotherapy you use to treat cancer with your physician. Though these side effects sound harsh and it is frustrating and concerning that you may end up with long-term side effects, your life may just be saved by chemotherapy so it does not diminish the value of chemotherapy in cancer treatment.