How long after chemo will I feel better, is a commonly asked question by people undergoing chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a well-established option for treating many types of cancers. As it is known that chemo has some side effects, which need to be dealt with carefully, it can create anxiety in many people. However, having a clear understanding of the time frame till, which chemo and its side effects can bother, surely helps.
How Long After Chemo Will I Feel Better?
Cancer affects every person differently and so is their treatment. There are different cancer treatment modalities and chemotherapy is one of those. Chemo is either given as the only treatment or used in combination with surgery, radiation or other options. The cancer care team decides the most appropriate treatment approach depending on the type, stage, severity of cancer and the patient’s health condition.
The answer to the question, how long after chemo will I feel better, depends on various factors ranging from the disease to the treatment and the patient’s health. Chemotherapy is the use of certain medicines to cure, control spread of cancer to other areas, or ease symptoms due to the cancer. Other treatments like surgery and radiation focus on destroying only cancer cells, but chemo has an effect on the entire body. Hence, it not only destroys the cancer cells, but also acts on other healthy cells, which can cause some side effects. However, the chemo affects every person in a different manner and it is not necessary for all patient to experience the same side effects with the severity. All these factors, including the severity of the disease, decide how long after chemo you will feel better.
Chemo and its Side Effects
The results of chemo really depend on the type of cancer and the way in which it is used for treatment. There are various medicines used singly or in specified combinations in chemotherapy. Chemo may be given as oral medicines, injections or intravenous infusions. These treatments are given daily, every other day or at regular intervals (known as cycles), based on the treatment protocol. The rest period in between the cycles gives time for the body to heal before the next dose is given.
Now coming back to the question of how long after chemo will I feel better? The improvement in symptoms and you feeling better after chemo depends on the type, stage and severity of the cancer. Cancers of early stage generally respond faster while those which have already spread to other areas may take a while. Chemo, as a single therapy may require rigorous treatment than those which are treated surgically or with other therapies. Again, the age, other health parameters, dose, duration and side effects of chemo influence the recovery. However, it is usually seen that many patients start feeling better within 2 to 3 cycles of chemo with some improvement in their symptoms. Certain types of cancers may not respond well to chemo even after 6 cycles, in which case it may take longer to feel better. As each chemo regimen follows a specific protocol, the duration between cycles varies and so do the months.
While the symptoms may reduce to some extent, the side effects of the chemo also need to be considered, which decide how long after chemo will you feel better. Chemo drugs can cause various effects, some of which are mild while some can be more troublesome. Some chemo drugs are toxic in nature and need to be used cautiously in some patients. The commonest side effects of chemo include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, low blood counts, fever and increased risk of infections, hair fall, and mouth and skin problems. Some long lasting side effects can affect major organs like the kidneys, liver, heart, which need to be addressed efficiently. In addition to this, the recovery from cancer and any chances of further spread determine how quickly you feel better. After the chemo is over, most patients start feeling better soon for some, but it may take up to 6 months after chemo to feel better. If the side effects or complications are more or if the cancer spreads, newer symptoms may appear or those already present may worsen. This means waiting longer after chemo to feel better.
The success of ongoing chemo is also monitored with PET scan, which is done at regular interval. Based on the scan reports and the ongoing side effects, the treatment or it’s dose may be adjusted, as appropriate. For some patients, the side effects are mild and minimal, but for some, they may be more severe requiring treatment in between the chemo cycles. This means, depending on the chemo side effects, the duration of chemo may be longer in some patients and so is the recovery.
If you note any worsening of symptoms or if you do not feel better within the expected time, as suggested by your treating physician, it is important to speak to your cancer care team.
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