A question that is asked frequently to health professionals concerning the management of cancer. In fact, chemotherapy has its advantages and its disadvantages. And this is our topic today.
Benefits of chemotherapy:
Chemotherapy kills the primary malignant tumour. It limits the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body. Radiation which is localized to a single site of the body, cannot kill distant malignant cells. Therefore chemotherapy prolongs the life span of the patient. Besides chemotherapy can reduce the size of the tumour so that surgery would be much easier for the surgeon and the patient.
Chemotherapy can help relief the symptoms of an advanced cancer, as pain. This is called palliative chemotherapy.
But there are harms due to the use of chemotherapy too.
Harms of chemotherapy:
There are acute and long-term toxicity.
Acute toxicity includes:1. Bone marrow suppression.
It is the most common and most serious acute toxicity. (Bone marrow is the industry that produces all blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets). With a low white blood count, the patient is liable to infections. If fever occurs, it is considered as a medical emergency.
With a low platelets count, the patient is liable to bleeding tendency.
That's why it is crucial to check the blood counts frequently when undergoing a chemotherapeutic treatment.
2. Gastrointestinal toxicity:
It can occur in the form of nausea, vomiting, stomatitis and diarrhea. The management will include analgesics and maintaining an adequate hydration level.
3. Neurological toxicity:
Paclitaxel, a chemotherapeutic agent, causes sensory peripheral neuropathy
4. Skin toxicity:
Rashes, photosensitivity and hair loss can occur.
5. Genitourinary toxicity:
Renal damage can occur. Cyclophosphamide (in high doses) can cause hemorrhagic cystitis.
Among the agents used in management of breast cancer, taxanes have the highest incidence. Taxanes include paclitaxel (Taxol) and docetaxel (Taxotere). To reduce hypersensitivity, a premedication with corticosteroids, diphenhydramine and histamine antagonists are used.
Long-term toxicity includes:1.Premature menopause:
Chemotherapy causes ovarian ablation. Therefore it leads to premature menopause.
3. Secondary malignancy:
The risk was particularly high for patients treated with melphalan ( a drug no longer used in treatment of breast cancer).
Owing to the above numerous side effects, there must be a safer option in treatment of cancer. i believe researches will be our way to get it.
At last, i want to encourage each and every cancer patient that there is always hope and that the psychological factor plays a great role in reaching cure.