Chemotherapy, or simply known as chemo, is the most common treatment for cancer. In its truest sense, chemotherapy is not a treatment. At the early stages or cancer or at the onset of a malignant tumor, surgery is the recommended treatment. But surgery cannot ensure that the tumor wouldn’t recur again and thus the possibility of malignancy or cancer does exist.
Chemotherapy is introduced at this stage to reduce the chances of recurrence. If someone is diagnosed at an advanced stage of cancer when surgery would not be a cure, chemotherapy is recommended to manage the symptoms and to provide some relief from the ill-effects of cancer. Chemo in such latter stages helps people to live a relatively normal life. Chemo does have the ability to prolong a person’s life which is otherwise curtailed by cancer.
List of Pros of Chemotherapy
1. Potential to Cure Cancer
When diagnosed at an early stage, when the tumor is yet to become severely malignant, chemo along with a horde of treatments or medications can do away with the cancerous cells. The tumor can be managed and then surgery can completely cure the malignancy. In such cases, chemotherapy is life saving.
2. Increase Cancer Survival Rate
Even if chemo fails to cure cancer or there is consistent recurrence of cancerous cells, the treatment can still help a person to live longer. The effects of cancer are unbearable as the condition worsens and in such cases chemo can make living relatively comfortable or bearable. Later stages of cancer can render a person incapable of doing even the normal tasks of day-to-day life. Chemo can help to an extent.
3. Increase Lifespan
Chemo can provide that bit more time which many terminally ill patients want. In the most advanced or worst phases, people get very few days to live and there may be a degree of uncertainty to that as well. Chemo can help in providing a few additional days of life. That can allow terminally ill patients to do things they want, meet people they want to and just to get that time for certain wishes or desires to be satiated.
4. Scientifically Evolved Treatment
Today, chemotherapy is considerably evolved. The extremely painful experiences that were common a decade or two back are not exactly the encounter one shall endure today. With better technology, understanding of how chemo works, more advanced medications and immaculate diagnosis by experts, patients feel relatively comfortable and they can often regain hope and be optimistic with their life.
List of Cons of Chemotherapy
1. Ineffective Treatment to Some
First, chemotherapy may work for someone or it may be completely ineffective. There is no surefire treatment that would work for all and sundry, at least for cancer. Not only are there various types of cancer but the exact stage, the general health of the person, existing medical conditions and even the strength of the immune system, several factors influence the impact of chemotherapy. In effect, chemotherapy may cure a person and may not have any effect on another person. Hence, it is necessary that this possibility of success and failure is factored in.
2. Physical Side Effects
No matter what type of cancer it is or how healthy a person is, chemotherapy will have some side effects. The severity or the nature of the side effects will vary but anyone being administered a chemo will suffer from some problems. The most common problem is fatigue. A person will feel tired or exhausted after every session of chemotherapy. This fatigue may last for a few minutes, a few hours or it can last for days. That depends on the health and lifestyle compulsions of the person. One may not be able to work or even do the normal chores if the fatigue or weariness is unbearable.
3. Suffer From Discomfort
Discomfort is very common as well. It is difficult to define or explain this discomfort because people experience it differently. Some people feel uncomfortable, they don’t like to lie down, sitting may not be convenient and one may not like anything around. Some people feel nauseous, vomiting tendency is very common and one may even struggle to breathe. There are medications that can control or reduce the severity of such symptoms. Some people can get complete relief from such symptoms with the help of prescribed medications but these side effects are common and it is rare for someone to not experience them at all.
4. Not Available Everywhere
Chemotherapy isn’t always available everywhere. Someone living far away from the nearest hospital or healthcare facility where chemo can be administered and a doctor can be consulted with will have to travel long distances and on many occasions in a month. This is not a desirable approach to treatment. Paying for treatment or care at home can cost a fortune.
5. Can Cause Death
Although rare, chemotherapy can cause or lead to death. There are cases of people who have not been able to endure the treatment of chemotherapy and have succumbed as a result. Chemo isn’t a facilitator of cancer as some perceptions may lead one to believe. Chemo may be ineffective in curing or managing the severity of cancer in some cases but it doesn’t enhance the growth of cancer cells.
6. Interfere with Other Medications
Chemotherapy can interfere with a horde of medications. From the drugs meant for diabetes to treatments for people with chronic cardiac ailments, a huge list of medicines can be rendered ineffective or there can be some severe fallout and a multitude of adverse side effects if proper care and assessment is not indulged in before chalking out a chemo treatment plan.
7. Loss of Senses
There is a phenomenon, known as chemo brain, which some patients experience. It is sort of a mental fog that lasts for some time after every treatment. A person may not be in the right senses, may not remember the names of family and relatives or where one stays. Inactivity in the brain or temporary fogging of cognitive senses is a relatively common side effect of chemotherapy.
8. Daily Life Impacted
Eating, exercising and sleeping may be hampered due to chemotherapy. Appetite and taste would be substantially affected. Ability to exercise will be curtailed and sleeping may be very uncomfortable at times. One may also get very little sleep while undergoing chemo.
9. Hair Loss
Hair loss is another very common side effect. The skin becomes more sensitive to the sun.
Many of these side effects can be managed with adequate planning and guidance from the doctor. From using certain medicines to being prepared to handle the mental and physical impact of chemotherapy, there are ways to overcome certain cons of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is not a simple or an ordinary medical treatment. The procedure or the treatment plan itself is complicated and would be influenced by several factors. Chemo or chemotherapy is a treatment for many types of cancer where medications or drugs are used to target and destroy cancer cells. Cancer is caused when cancerous cells start to grow, divide and regenerate rampantly without any order and start to destroy healthy cells or noncancerous cells. Hence, to cure or to manage cancer the cancerous cells must be destroyed. That is what chemotherapy does or aims to do.
In some cases, chemotherapy can destroy all cancer cells in the human body and as a result a person can be completely cured of cancer. There is a possibility of the cancerous cells growing again but then chemo is recommended as an ongoing treatment precisely to counter that recurrence. Chemo doesn’t have the same level of impact on all types of cancer. Also, the impact of chemo varies largely as the stage of cancer advances or worsens. Chemo can reduce or manage symptoms of cancer and can also help in delaying the advancement of a particular stage or onto a more severe stage.
Chemotherapy is not confined to cancer treatment. It is also used along with biological or radiation therapy and as a supplementary treatment to different types of surgery. In case of cancer, chemotherapy may be used to make a tumor smaller so it is easier to get rid of during surgery. Chemotherapy can also supplement radiation therapy.
The method of administering chemotherapy will depend on the type of cancer, its stage, prior treatments if any and the nature of the drug that is being prescribed. Prior history of chemotherapy and any medical conditions that a person may have will also influence the choice and method of administering chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy may be administered via an injection. Such in injection is administered at the thighs, hip, arm or under the belly. Intra-arterial chemotherapy involves administering the drug directly into the cancerous artery. Intra-peritoneal chemotherapy is administered into the peritoneal cavity, which is the part of the body containing the stomach, intestines, liver and ovaries. Intravenous chemotherapy is administered into a vein. There are creams available today which can be applied topically. Oral pills, liquids or capsules are also available that one can swallow.