Five Things You Didn’t Know About Chemotherapy
Posted on July 8, 2014
Cancer. Chemotherapy. Infusion. What image just popped into your mind? Maybe a child in a hospital bed, receiving his medicine through a port in his chest, or a young woman with a bright smile proudly showing off her newly shaved head.
We often see images like these associated with cancer treatment and chemotherapy. But what many people don’t realize is that each patient’s treatment journey is unique; as doctors and scientists become more sophisticated in the fight against cancer, there are increasingly more types of chemotherapy, drugs, dosages and treatment strategies oncologists consider when developing treatment regimens. And all of these are tailored to individuals as breakthroughs move forward at the genetic level.
With the focus on personalized medicine, it’s becoming even more important that patients take an active role in their diagnosis. A realistic idea of what chemo entails can help patients and caregivers prepare and advocate effectively. These five chemotherapy myth busters are meant to strike down some of the most common chemo misconceptions. Of course please keep in mind, this does not apply to everyone’s experience, as each patient has their own treatment regimen and responds and reacts differently. On the whole, here’s what you should keep in mind:
Myth: You will not be able to work while on chemo.
Fact: Most people work full-time on FOLFOX or FOLFIRI, two common chemo drugs. In fact, many find going to work helps by creating a feeling of normalcy and keeping patients busy and their minds off their cancer. The key to this is proper management of side effects. In certain situations, side effects may make patients very sick, therefore making it difficult to work. An afternoon rest may also help reenergize.
Myth: You will have constant nausea, diarrhea and fatigue.
Fact: Much research has gone into making it easier for patients to remain active during treatment. Medical teams now know how to manage these common side effects. For nausea and diarrhea, treating physicians typically prescribe pre-medications (taken before treatment) and medications to be taken once home. Most physicians recommend managing fatigue with lifestyle choices like exercise, diet and getting plenty of fluids and rest. But, do not suffer in silence. If the current combination of medicines isn’t working, tell your medical team so they can adjust.
Myth: You will spend all your time in the hospital.
Fact: There are many ways chemo drugs are administered depending on the patient’s needs. Most patients are treated intravenously on an outpatient basis at their local hospital or clinic. However, sometimes patients can be given a simple shot or even pill or liquid to take at home.
Myth: You will lose all of your hair.
Fact: Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. In fact, even if a patient is on a drug for which this is a side effect, many will experience only a thinning. For those who do experience thinning or total loss, it will grow back after your treatment course is complete, and sometimes even before that.
Myth: Everyone receives the same amount of chemo.
Fact: Every patient is unique and should receive a very specific dose
of chemo. Despite the advances in fighting cancer, it is sometimes a challenge to determine the right dosage a patient should receive for optimal effectiveness.
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