How Long Do Chemotherapy And Its Side Effects Last?


Asked by debbie

How Long Do Chemotherapy And Its Side Effects Last?

Once you're done with chemo, how long does it stay in your system? And how long do any side effects last? When will I feel like myself again?


This is a complicated question! The effect chemotherapy has on you (or any cancer patient) is all very personal to you and your own body chemistry, the type of cancer you have, the type of chemo you had, what shape you're in physically, and a host of other variables. I'd offer that "getting over" chemotherapy probably takes longer than you'd think; and certainly longer than you'd hope. Doctors say it takes about 3 months for the actual chemo drugs to leave your system completely; as for how long the particular chemo cocktail you took will remain in your body, that's a question for your oncologist. But the drugs' effects can continue well beyond that.

You'll almost certainly experience hair loss. Once you're done with treatment, your hair will take months to grow back, and will probably grow back different than it was before - curly if it was straight, straight if it was curly, perhaps a different color and different thickness.

You may have side effects that go on indefinitely - neuropathy (tingling) in the hands and feet is a typical side effect that lasts for a long time (a.k.a. "lasting effects").  Hot flashes induced by chemical menopause may last the rest of your life - or they may not. Or you may have your own personal lasting effects - that's one thing about cancer and chemo, we all experience it differently.

My advice would be to understand that chemo has done a number on you, and you'll heal; but you need to be patient. Set your expectations to a reasonable level; and welcome each day, as it's one day farther out from chemo, one day closer to feeling normal - your "new normal." Best of luck to you.

Answered by PJ Hamel