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For those patients diagnosed with cancer, doctors who specialize in the treatment of cancer (oncologists) may recommend chemotherapy in an attempt to kill, stifle the growth of, and stop the spread of these cancerous cells. The prescription of chemotherapy as a treatment depends on factors like the stage, type of cancer, and patient health. Today this cancer treatment comes in many different forms, all of which may affect patients differently. Furthermore, the way each patient reacts to a certain form of chemotherapy may be different.

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This cancer medication may be given alone or in combination with other treatments to help boost their effectiveness at fighting cancer. Patients may receive chemotherapy before, during, or even after other cancer treatments. The treatment may be given through an IV, a shot, a pill or liquid, or even a cream. Patients may receive treatment every day, every week, or even on a monthly basis.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

On its own, chemotherapy is an uncomfortable process to endure without the added trauma of medical error. Below are some of the side effects common to chemotherapy treatments:

  • Anemia
  • Appetite Changes
  • Bleeding Problems
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Hair Loss (Alopecia)
  • Infection
  • Memory Changes
  • Mouth and Throat Changes
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Nerve Changes
  • Pain
  • Sexual and Fertility Changes in Men
  • Sexual and Fertility Changes in Women
  • Skin and Nail Changes
  • Swelling (Fluid Retention)
  • Urination Changes

Chemotherapy Administration Errors

Unfortunately, medical errors can occur during the administration of chemotherapy leading to additional complications for the cancer patient. Healthcare providers who may be responsible for these chemotherapy errors include doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff who assist with the administration of these drugs. Common chemotherapy error causes include the following:

  • Incorrect packaging
  • Mislabeled medications
  • Incorrect dose administration
  • Failing to monitor patients
  • Failure to communicate properly
  • Mixing up medications
  • Incorrect prescription of medications

Complications Associated with Chemotherapy

The results of chemotherapy mistakes can range from serious to deadly, particularly if the mistakes are not discovered quickly enough. Chemotherapy utilizes powerful drugs designed to kill cancer cells, so an overdose can have significant consequences on other parts of the body.

However, like so many other forms of medical malpractice, chemotherapy errors are highly preventable. With proper communication, record-keeping practices, staff cooperation, and administration procedures, patients can receive the life-saving cancer drugs they need without risk of further harm. However, patients who fail to receive the level of care they deserve and are the victims of medical malpractice can collect compensation for this additional harm during an already trying time.



Legant, Patricia. “Oncologists and Medical Malpractice.” American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2006. Web. 31 May 2012.
“Understanding Chemotherapy.” National Cancer Institute, 24 November 2008. Web. 31 May 2012.