How is an infection treated?
Antibiotics can be used to treat an infection. Your chemotherapy may be delayed until your infection has been treated.
Your oncologist may give you an injection called G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) during your chemotherapy. This can help prevent infection as it helps your body make more white blood cells. It isn’t used with all chemotherapy drugs, so speak to your oncologist about whether you will have it.
It may be a good idea to get the flu vaccination before or during your chemotherapy. Speak to your chemotherapy team about this. You should also avoid any dental treatment once you start chemotherapy, as this can increase your risk of getting an infection. If you do need urgent dental care, speak to your oncologist first.
If you are having gemcitabine, you may get some flu-like symptoms such as feeling hot, cold or shivery. These symptoms normally happen while you are being given gemcitabine, or up to 24 hours later. These symptoms are a side effect of gemcitabine, not an infection. You should call your chemotherapy team if they don’t get better after a day.
Can I take paracetamol or ibuprofen while having chemotherapy?
Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to help manage pain. But they can also lower your temperature. This can hide the signs of an infection and make you feel better – but it won’t cure the infection.
Always check your temperature before taking these painkillers. If your temperature is high, call your chemotherapy team on the emergency number straight away before you take any paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Feeling tired, weak and breathless
Some chemotherapy drugs can lower the number of red blood cells in the blood. This is called anaemia. It can make you feel tired, weak, faint and short of breath.
If your red blood cell level is very low, you may need to be given blood through a drip. This is called a blood transfusion, and will increase your red blood cell levels. Macmillan Cancer Support have more information about blood transfusions.
Bleeding and bruising
Chemotherapy can lower the number of platelets in your blood – this is called thrombocytopenia. Platelets are cells that help blood to clot. If the number of platelets drops, you may be more likely to have nosebleeds, bleeding gums or tiny red spots on your skin. You may also bruise more easily than normal. If you have a nosebleed that doesn’t stop after five minutes, call your chemotherapy team who will be able to help.
You may need a longer break between your chemotherapy cycles to allow your platelet level to recover. Or your oncologist may change the dose of the chemotherapy drug.
Updated August 2019
Review date August 2021