Chemotherapy Side Effect – Hepatotoxicity

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Because these medicines travel through the blood to the entire body, chemotherapy is described as a body-wide treatment. The most common chemotherapy agents act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells.

Because these medicines travel through the blood to the entire body, chemotherapy is described as a body-wide treatment. The most common chemotherapy agents act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells.

As a result, chemotherapy may damage or kill some normal cells.

When this damage occurs, there can be hepatotoxicity, because certain chemotherapeutic drugs may bring damage to the liver.

Hepatotoxicity (liver damage) can be caused by many cytotoxic drugs.  The susceptibility of an individual to liver damage can be altered by other factors such as the cancer itself, viral hepatitis, immunosuppression and nutritional deficiency.

The liver damage can consist of damage to liver cells, hepatic sinusoidal syndrome (obstruction of the veins in the liver), cholestasis (where bile does not flow from the liver to the intestine) and liver fibrosis.

Side effects of chemotherapy depend on many things, including the type of cancer and which drugs are being used. Each person reacts differently to these drugs. Some newer chemotherapy drugs that better target cancer cells may cause fewer or different side effects.

Many side effects go away fairly quickly after treatment ends, but some may take months or even years to completely go away. Sometimes the side effects can last a lifetime, such as when chemo causes long-term damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or reproductive organs. Certain types of chemo sometimes cause delayed effects, such as a second cancer that may show up many years later.

The time it takes to get over some side effects and get your energy back varies from person to person.

Your health care provider will explain what you can do at home to prevent or treat some chemotherapy side effects. These measures include:

Being careful with pets and other animals to avoid catching infections from them

Eating enough calories and protein to keep your weight up

Preventing bleeding, and what to do if bleeding occurs

Practicing safe eating and drinking habits

Washing your hands often with soap and water

You will need to have follow-up visits with your provider during and after chemotherapy. Blood tests and imaging tests, such as x-rays, MRI, CT, or PET scans will be done to:

Monitor how well the chemotherapy is working

Watch for damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, blood, and other parts of the body.

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