The primary sites of normal cells affected by chemotherapy
The goal of chemotherapy is to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells while inducing minimal negative effects on normal cells. Although that is the goal, there are certain areas of the body where normal cells are more affected by chemotherapy than others.
Bone marrow is where the blood cells are produced. Chemotherapy can temporarily decrease the number of white blood cells, which help fight infection, and platelets, which are responsible for forming blood clots to stop bleeding. For many chemotherapy medications these effects usually occur three to seven days after treatment. Although this is usually temporary, the body still needs time to produce sufficient cells to be back to a normal level. Bone marrow suppression can be more severe when Carboplatin, Doxorubicin (Adriamycin), or Lomustine (CCNU) are administered.
The most common side effects are nausea, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. If any of these side effects occur, it will usually happen two to five days after treatment. Fortunately, we have reliable medications that can help to minimize and control these side effects. These side effects are more common in patients receiving Carboplatin or Doxorubicin (Adriamycin). When these chemotherapy drugs are used, patients are sent home with preventative medications to help minimize the symptoms.
Hair loss (alopecia) after chemotherapy is most common in non-shedding breeds of dogs such as Poodles, Bichon Frise, Shih Tzu, Old English Sheepdogs and most terriers. Depending on which drugs are used and the longevity of the protocol, the alopecia can range from thinning to complete loss, which is unusual. The hair does grow back, but it may change color and/or texture. Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) is the drug that generally causes the most pronounced alopecia.