No one likes to think about getting diagnosed with a serious disease. It can be even more difficult when a family member or loved one receives a difficult diagnosis. When it comes to dealing with a diagnosis like cancer people need to realize that they are not alone. Many people have a medical team that works with them during their treatment, whether it is surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses a variety of powerful chemicals to kill rapidly growing cells in the body. These drugs are most often used to treat cancer since cancer cells tend to grow and multiply much faster than any other cells in the body. There are a variety of drugs that are used during treatment and they can be used in a number of different combinations to treat various types of cancer. While these drugs are often used successfully to treat a variety of cancers they do pose a risk and come with a variety of side effects. Some of these side effects are mild and treatable while others can cause the patient some very serious complications.
We know that chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancer cells but they can be used in a variety of ways. For some patients these drugs are used as the sole treatment with the goal of curing the cancer while in other cases they are used with the goal of slowing the progression of a certain type of cancer. In certain situations these drugs may be used after another therapy such as surgery to kill any hidden cancer cells that may remain in the body. There are times when chemotherapy drugs may be used to try to shrink a tumor before surgery or radiation treatments. In some advanced cases these drugs are used to try to relieve pain and help keep the patient comfortable. These types of drugs have also been known to help treat other problems such as bone marrow disorders and immune system disorders.
There can be a wide variety of significant side effects that go along with using chemotherapy drugs. Every drug has different side effects so a patient will need to discuss these issues with their physician. Some of the more common side effects that patients experience during treatment include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, hair loss, fever, pain, constipation, fatigue, mouth sores and easy bruising. Many of these side effects can be prevented or treated and most of them will subside after the treatment is finished. Some side effects may not show themselves until months or even years after the patient receives treatment. These vary by the drug that was used but can include heart or kidney problems, infertility, lung damage, nerve damage or even risk of a second type of cancer.
Regardless of the condition being treated chemotherapy drugs are not without risk. While they play a big part in treating many patients their use should always be discussed in great detail between a patient and their doctor.