Chemotherapy is one of the most used cancer treatment methods in the world.Chemotherapy is referred to the use of chemical drugs to kill cancer cells.It is one of the important processes in the medical oncology.
One or more anti-cancer drugs are used to destroy cancer cells and stop it from growing and dividing.It all depends on the type of cancer, patients health and the stage of cancer.
The treatment varies from standard chemotherapy to traditional chemotherapy to Cytotoxic chemotherapy.
Many people are frightened when they came to hear this term because of the side effects and pains but as we come to know more about chemo, we will gradually understand that it is not that painful.
What does chemotherapy do?
At present, more than 100 anti-cancer drugs are available.The oncologists and doctors combine one or more drugs to treat patients cancer effectively.
The treatment may either adjuvant therapy or neoadjuvant therapy.
Adjuvant therapy is given after the surgery or after the radiation therapy to kills the remaining cancer cells and recover the patients health completely.
Neoadjuvant therapy is given before the surgery or radiation therapy mainly to shrink the tumors.
What are the Side effects of chemotherapy?
The chemotherapy consists of many anti-cancer drugs.These drugs travel throughout the body and kills the cells that are growing and dividing.
During this process it can also destroy the normal cells that frequently divide such as the cells that cause hairs and nails to grow, the cells that line your mouth and intestine.But this side effects may not get to all the patients.
Some may get fewer side effects while for some there won’t be any effects and for the rest it there will be many side effects.
These side effects won’t last forever.As soon as the treatment process is completed the healthy cells again starts to grow.
Here we will discuss common side effects of chemotherapy
1-Tiredness and Fatigue
Tiredness and Fatigue are one of the common side effects of chemotherapy.People may feel tired and weak during the treatment process and sometimes it may continue some months after the treatment.
Chemotherapies can make you feel sick and tired.Some drugs can make the lining of the mouth sore by destroying the cells of the mouth lining.
People who have unhealthy dieting habits are more likely to have mouth and throat sores.Although these sores may infect during the treatment, they are completely healed soon after the treatment.
Some chemotherapy drugs may affect the lining of the bowel and make it watery.Diarrhea usually happens during the first stages of treatment, and it can be controlled well by using some medicines.
Constipation is the difficulty of passing out the stool and emptying the bowels.Chemotherapy, as well as some medicines that are used to control vomiting and other effects, can cause constipation.
Following unbalanced meals and not doing proper exercise can also cause constipation.
Chemotherapy often affects the production of new blood cells by bone marrow.The bone marrow produces three types of cells
- White blood cells to fight infections
- Red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body
- Platelets to clot the blood and prevent breeding.
When the production of blood cells decreases, especially the white blood cells there is a high risk of developing infections during the treatment, and it is very dangerous if not controlled earlier itself.
6-Nausea and Vomiting
Chemotherapy can cause nausea and vomiting that depends on the type of chemotherapy used on patient.With proper care and medication, it can be cured completely.
7-Nervous system effects
Some of the drugs used in chemotherapy can damage your nerve cells.They destroy the nerve cells of feet and hands.They cause numbness, weakness and pain in hands and feet.
It can also increase anxiety and stress in patients brain.It also increases the risk of making harm to the memory power.It makes it difficult for the patients to think clearly.But all this problems are gone as soon as the treatment is completed.
8-Sexual and reproductive problems
Chemotherapy may affect your sexual life.In women, It can change the hormonal structure that leads to irregular periods or sudden onset of menopause.Chemotherapy also makes dryness in vaginal tissue that leads to pain and difficulty during intercourse.
In men, chemotherapy can harm sperm and decrease the sperm count.But most of the people enjoys their sexual life after the treatment.
9-Long term side effects
Although most of the effects of chemotherapy are temporary and they disappear as soon as the treatment has been completed.But some of the effects of chemotherapy are either permanent or they remain for a very long time.
Some of the drugs can ultimately affect the heart, lungs, kidney and reproductive system.Cancer patients also have the high risk of developing second cancer.
10-Hair, skin and nails
Many chemotherapy drugs affect the rapidly growing cells such as cells in hair, skin and nails.It makes the hair fall out(alopecia) from the body.During the first couple of stages, the hair from head, eyelashes and eyebrows falls out.
Some drugs make skin irritations such as dryness, itchiness and rashes in the patient’s body.It also develops sensitivity to the sun that makes your skin burn fastly.The doctors usually provide ointments to the affected skin areas.
Some people’s nails also become dry and rigid.The growth of fingernails and toenails are slowed down and they are more likely to break soon.In some people, white lines are also seen on fingers.