The word ‘Chemotherapy’ sends chills through the spine of people who have been there and done that. It is the toughest part of cancer treatment, and is dreaded by most of the people who have been through it. All we know is that chemotherapy is a part of cancer treatment; it kills cancer cells and keeps the deadly disease from making a comeback. We also know that the patient going through chemotherapy loses hair. Is that all about chemotherapy? Let us check out whether you know these ‘not so often’ discussed things about Chemotherapy.
Warning: This is just a general information regarding Chemotherapy. Your oncologist knows what he/she is doing and will do the right thing for you. Also, every patient will respond differently to the treatment, hence do not compare your symptoms with the ones mentioned here. Chemotherapy can be very effective in controlling cancer in many (not all) cases.
12. Right Amount of Poison
In layman’s language we can say chemotherapy is giving a person the right amount of poison that doesn’t cause his/her body to shut down, but will successfully eliminate or reduce cancer in the body.
11. No Standard Treatment
Chemotherapy is not a standard treatment but a combination of strategies oncologists consider, keeping in mind the type and stage of cancer, genetic disposal, general health, age, weight and other personal data of each patient. It is customized keeping in mind the unique needs of each patient. Hence, your oncologist plays a great role in making your chemotherapy successful.
10. Different Experience for Every Patient
Though it is common to assume that everyone loses hair or suffers from nausea (two most common side-effects) during chemotherapy, this does not apply to everyone. Each patient undergoing the treatment of chemotherapy will have a customized treatment regimen and will respond and react differently.
9. Different Ways
Chemotherapy works in two ways. One type of chemotherapy will directly destroy the rogue cell’s DNA, whereas the other will act on the receptors of the cell surface, preventing the rogue secondary messages from getting through.
8. Not Just Cancer Cells
Chemotherapy not just attacks cancer cells but every other cell showing growth in the body of the patient. Hence, other rapidly dividing cells, such as those in the nails, blood, stomach lining and hair, also suffer during the treatment. This is the reason for the hair loss.
7. Weakens Natural Defense
The blood counts fall drastically during chemotherapy. With lesser red blood cells (RBC), the supply of oxygen to body is cut down, whereas falling counts of white blood cells (WBC) will weaken the immune system. Thus, the natural defense of the body against cancer and other diseases is weakened during chemotherapy.
Some patients lose weight during chemotherapy. It could be related to nausea induced by the treatment, and also due to cell loss. When the weight loss is high, it is termed cachexia and can be the cause of death as well.
5. You Have a Choice
The patient has a choice in making decision whether she/he wants to go through chemotherapy or not. Often, treatment decisions are made by collaboration between the oncologists, patient and concerned family members.
Though nausea and hair loss is quite visible, the fatigue which is the most common side-effect suffered by the person going through chemotherapy is not. Some of the survivors have tough time proving they are not getting lazy with onset of cancer, but it is the fatigue that is holding them back.
3. Different Goals
Chemotherapy is administered to a patient keeping different goals in mind, depending on the size, type and stage of cancer. In some cases it is meant to destroy cancer cells, in others it will stop cancer cells from spreading and in few patients it will slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy does not cure cancer.
Some drugs used in chemotherapy are carcinogens themselves. The liver and immune system of the patient has to work overtime to eliminate these poisons from the system, thus becoming weak and vulnerable during the process.
Lower oxygen level in blood is directly linked to depression; hence it is inevitable that a person going through chemotherapy may go through depression after a couple of weeks. With cancer and depression, life can be really tough for the survivors. Do not hesitate to show your support whenever possible.