Battling cancer is a very scary experience- for patients as well as their family members. Many tests, multiple opinions, various course of treatments and so on. There are many options available but lack of knowledge leads to confusion and eventually, threat about the treatments. Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer. However, there are still many patients and their near ones are reluctant to go for it because of many misconceptions. Here are some of the common chemotherapy myths busted.
I must be critically ill if doctor has suggested chemotherapy.
That would have been true a few decades back when it could mean a very poor health condition. However, nowadays chemo is suggested as a supplementary treatment and given after a primary treatment e.g. surgery or a radiation therapy. It is usually suggested to prevent cancer recurrence.
Chemo is a very hectic process.
Nowadays chemo drugs are given through various ways depending on the patients’ need and the condition. Most of the times, the drugs are given through a needle or a catheter. But it can also be given in a liquid or pill form which you can take at home.
Everybody loses their hair.
This is one of the biggest fears anyone has while going through a chemo. However, it’s not really true. With latest chemo drugs, losing hair is becoming uncommon. Hair loss happens due to the damaged hair follicles which, most of the time is a side effect of the chemo drugs. However, new medications are developed in a way to minimize this effect.
4. Chemotherapy only kills cancer cells.
In medical terms, chemotherapy is often referred as cytotoxic (cell-killing) treatment. These drugs are devised to hamper the growth of the cells by attacking their DNA that fosters their growth. However, these drugs also attack the cells which grow in irregular manner, which are not always cancer cells. Thus side effects are seen.
5. Chemotherapy is same for all.
Chemotherapy is becoming more customized according to the patient’s needs. It is not a standard treatment. There are varieties of therapies used in combination with other medications. It is not a similar treatment for one and all. E.g. two men with lung cancer might not receive the same treatment.
6. Chemo causes high-level of nausea.
Earlier, it was very common amongst patients undergoing chemotherapy to experience nausea. It was one of the major side effects earlier. However, with new anti-nausea drugs like Zofron & Kytril, the symptoms are effectively controlled. It even allows patients to go home after the treatment unlike the earlier days when recovery time was needed. It is recommended that patients should take meals at short intervals rather than traditional ‘three meals a day’ option
7. Chemotherapy is very painful.
Earlier, it was true. But chemotherapy drugs are so advanced now that there are very negligible or very less side effects- but pain is not the one of those. Nowadays it’s a rare case that patient is admitted to hospital for overnight stay after the treatment.
8. If I’m not sick, the chemo must not be working.
It is the mindset of some patients that if any treatment is not hurting/ causing pain to them; it is not effective. Not just chemo, but otherwise too. However, it is not true. Some people experience side effects of the therapy while others don’t. But lack of side effects does not mean that the treatment is not working.
9. I won’t be able to have children after chemotherapy.
Chemo can cause a huge effect on pregnancy and it is indeed a complicated decision whether to or not to conceive while receiving chemo. It can cause complications. It is not true that conceiving during chemotherapy is not possible. However, it is strongly recommended that you talk to your specialist about the options before starting the treatment.
10. Chemotherapy makes patient toxic.
The medications used in chemo are indeed very powerful and can prove toxic if not administered correctly. But that does not mean that it makes you toxic. Many people, out of ignorance think that the person undergoing chemo should use different rooms and toilets. That is not true. Chemo does not make patient untouchable.
It is always great to be well-informed. Especially when it concerns ours and our loved ones’ health.