Chemotherapy is the next hardest thing most people have to hear after they learn that they have cancer. The mental struggle surrounding cancer and the effects of chemo can be more draining than the disease itself which is why a patient needs to keep a positive state of mind. Now, it all comes down to accepting your situation when you learn that you need chemotherapy and then being smart about the little things that can help reduce the pain associated with the treatment. We won’t go through the struggles in this list, just a look at the most important facts about chemotherapy that you may not know.
It is not only used to treat cancer
When Selena Gomez said she underwent chemotherapy while getting treated for an autoimmune condition called Lupus, many f her fans didn’t understand until a doctor was called on the Billboard Interview to confirm that chemo is not for cancer only. When dealing with aggressive cells that are multiplying out of order, you need to slow them down, destroy them or destroy their DNA and that is what chemo does.
It can therefore be used to treat an overaggressive immune system that is attacking your own body cells. Chemo is also used for to regulate the immunity of people that are about to receive bone marrow implants among other conditions. Chemo medication is widely used in other parts of medicine other than treating cancer although cancer is the main focus of most versions of chemo.
Chemo is not your only option if you have cancer
Treating cancer with chemo is draining both financially and physically which is why the option of having another form of treatment is a welcome relief. Now, chemo remains the best deterrent for aggressive cancers; of which most are, but your doctor will give you other options you can use. Some cancers can be treated with just surgery, others can be treated with stem cell transplant while others can be destroyed using radiotherapy alone. If you can bypass chemo, then you are lucky. There are alternative treatments for destroying cancer cells including immunotherapy, Biomarker testing, Hormone therapy and hypothermia. Your physician will not the safest option for treating your type and stage of cancer though.
All chemo is not the same
Chemo is not just chemo, there are different types of chemotherapy drugs and they work differently. Movies give people the illusion that chemo is always an IV bag filled with a yellowish liquid that makes people lose their hair. Chemo drugs can come as pills, a body cream you just apply on your skin or even an injection. The drugs also work differently with some targeting the DNA of the cancer cells while others target the RNA. The most common method nowadays is the use of a catheter, which helps prevent infection that may be caused by inserting an IV bag multiple times.
Nausea and hair loss are not for everyone
As chemo is different, so are the side effects of the medication. Some of the side effects such as fatigue, nausea and loss of appetite are common for everyone. While most chemo patients lose their hair, it doesn’t happen for everyone and some people may go through multiple cycles with their hair completely intact. Others start losing their hair and even nails after one or two cycles. The side effects also depend on the dosage of chemo used on you.
Someone else’s sad experience won’t help you
Doctors complain that most cancer patients come for advice on treatment with their minds made up which is true. The experience of cancer treatment is a tale that no one wants to ever tell, leave alone living through one. However, listening to how the treatment hurt another person will not help you because you might have a better or even worse experience. The best thing to do is listen to your doctor and evaluate the options before you then choose one and go for it with a little bit of positivity.
Chemo is not only meant for tumours
While many people go through chemo before surgery when dealing with a cancerous tumour, chemo is not only meant for tumours. Unlike targeted therapy which goes for the specific part of your body affected by cancer, chemotherapy drugs flow throughout your body killing any cancerous cells they may find. That is why chemo can be used to reduce the symptoms in advanced cancer and also kill any remaining traces of the disease after the tumour has been removed. Doctors may even prescribe chemo even if remission is deemed impossible to relieve the symptoms you may have.
You can continue working while on chemo
Chemotherapy has advanced over the years and you no longer need to live in a hospital bed to receive your dose. Many patients actually have theirs in a doctor’s office or even at home if they have a nurse. You should therefore ask the nurse for the best advice on how to deal with side effects because they are the ones who deal with the patients as they go through the worst effects of the side effects. There is always a rest period after your round of chemo and during this period, you can continue with your life as normal as possible.
You shouldn’t be afraid of becoming bedridden just because chemo has been prescribed for you. Living your life as normally as you can while undergoing chemo can help prevent depression which 1 in four chemo patients suffer from and which could kill you faster than cancer.
Some side effects may show up years after chemotherapy
When cancer is detected early and managed well, you will have milder side effects; most of which will go away after remission. Cancer is rarely caught early though because our lives don’t allow us to live on the hunt for cancer in our bodies every day. You should therefore accept your pill at whatever stage your cancer was caught and stay strong.
Now, the side effects are assured because chemo damages both cancer cells and some of your own body’s cells. While the most feared side effects such as hair loss, falling nails, nausea, diarrhoea and fatigue come while you are still on treatment, some may not show up until months or even years later. They include memory loss issues, infertility, lung and kidney problems and even the risk of contracting other types of cancer.
Your diet can help relieve some symptoms of the side effects
You tend to lose your appetite when on chemo and sometimes, the food doesn’t taste. Some people say they don’t feel the taste of food unless it is spicy or frozen. While the effect of chemo on your appetite may vary from what other people experienced, one thing that always helps is eating as much healthy food as you can take in. You should go for more small meals rather than regular three meals, so you don’t feel too full and miss a meal. You also need to eat more immunity-boosting foods to help keep away infections because chemo reduces your immunity. Taking in more protein-rich food and more fluids also helps a lot. Go for frozen foods when you need an appetizer.
Complementary therapies help more than over-the-counter medication
You will not be just dealing with the side effects of chemo; you also have lots of other medications to take. When side effects become too much, many people go for over-the-counter medication which is likely to interfere with the progress the chemo brings. To deal with side effects such as nausea and fatigue, complementary therapies are a better option. Go for cancer groups, acupuncture, massage and other forms of therapy that don’t interfere with the chemical components of your chemo.
Do you know any other facts about Chemotherapy? Have you had Chemotherapy yourself? Do let us know in the comments below.