I’m not sure about you, but I was astonished when I took a look at the side-effects of chemotherapy treatments. It was a long, ugly list of horrors. It is a decision that has to be made by each individual that faces a cancer diagnosis, but I think it should be made with full disclosure. Well, here are some of these side-effects. It must be understood that side effects can be acute (short-term), chronic (long-term), or permanent.
- memory loss
- hair loss
- skin discoloration
- weight loss/gain
- heart damage
- kidney damage
- liver damage
- ear damage
- mouth burns
- reproductive and sexual side-effects
Some of the most notable, notorious side-effects of chemotherapy are noted below:
- Nausea and vomiting: Chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea are very common. It is reported that the use of less nausea-causing chemotherapy substances along with better antiemetics have reduced this side-effect in recent times. Some of these chemotherapeutic substances were known to directly stimulate the vomiting centers in the brain. I can understand how highly toxic chemicals (such as those used in chemotherapy) can cause a patient to become extremely nauseous and to vomit uncontrollably. There have been breakthroughs in antiemetics. It would seem to make more sense to avoid giving patients substances that would make them nauseous. The body is designed to reject poisons and other substances that are not good for it.
- Immune system damage: Virtually all chemotherapeutic regimens tend to cause major reductions in the immune system function. This is usually caused by negative effects on the bone marrow which leads to a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow cells can be destroyed by the administration of chemotherapeutic chemicals. Sometimes, patients are given bone marrow transplants, which is a very painful procedure.
- Secondary Cancers: Ironic as it seems, chemotherapy can actually cause cancer in patients. Even with a “successful” treatment regimen, cancer can develop at a later date. The most common secondary cancer that develops in patients is called secondary acute myeloid leukemia, which develops primarily after treatment with alkylating agents or topoisomerase inhibitors. Chemotherapeutic agents are very powerful, toxic agents. They are very toxic to all cells, not just to cancer cells or rapidly-dividing cells in the body. They are supposed to be more toxic to the rapidly-dividing cancer cells.
To sum it up, there are a lot of factors to consider when evaluating a chemotherapeutic treatment method. I’m not sure if the oncologist will tell you about all of these possible side-effects, but they are usually included with the literature that comes with the drug. It just seems that it is advisable to know all of the possibilities of effects (negative and positive) with any treatment method. Also, nobody suffers from every side-effect from any treatment. It just isn’t known what side-effects (if any) will be encountered by a particular patient.