People these days are prone to several types of cancers. At the same time, a wide variety of therapies are also available to treat different cancers. The primary choices include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. However, patients who have cancer are highly worried and usually have many questions regarding the therapies provided to them. Here are some questions related to chemotherapy with answers.
1) What does Chemotherapy involve?
Chemotherapy involves the use of a single drug or a combination of different drugs to treat cancer. The medication stops or slows down the growth of rapidly-dividing cancer cells. These drugs may be given either intravenously or as pills which are taken orally. Your doctor determines the type of chemotherapy suitable for you based on your age, medical problems, and potential side effects of the drugs. The therapy may be changed during your follow-up visits.
2) How is Chemotherapy scheduled?
There is a specific course of treatment which is based on the individual, the type of cancer and the chemotherapeutic agent used. Usually, it is scheduled for every four weeks. If your blood count is low, then you may have to visit the doctor more frequently, perhaps every day.
Most of the chemotherapeutic agents available today are given in ambulatory setting. The length of the hospital stay varies depending on the chemotherapy medication.
3) Why am I feeling so tired?
Most of the patients who receive chemotherapy feel very tired due to a decrease in the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Therefore, it is better to plan your work accordingly. Whenever necessary, you should take rest throughout the day. Taking additional proteins can help in repairing damaged cells. Performing mild exercises can also help increase your energy levels.
4) What tests will I have to undergo?
Your doctor will brief you with the tests you need to undergo before and during chemotherapy. You will have to undergo blood tests to determine your complete blood count (CBC), check for the presence of cancer markers and the chemistry profile.
5) What are the risks associated with Chemotherapy?
Based on the type of chemotherapy drug administered, you may experience some common side effects. Mild nausea is experienced by most patients because of chemotherapy. Vomiting may also be experienced a few hours after taking the drug.
Due to a decrease in the white blood cells, you may become more prone to infections. Your doctor will prescribe medications to prevent this condition, but you should also take certain precautionary measures to reduce the risk of getting infected such as maintaining a good hygiene and staying away from infected people.
There is a risk of bleeding with chemotherapy due to a decrease in platelets (blood cells involved in clotting).
6) Is it certain that I will have hair loss with Chemotherapy?
Not all the chemotherapeutic agents cause hair loss. Some patients may have thinning of hair while others may have complete baldness. Hair can be lost from scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, legs, armpits, and pubic region. Hair loss can be sudden or gradual, but it is comforting to know that these effects are temporary. After the therapy is over,the hair re-grows and will gradually return to its normal texture. In most patients, the hair grows back within 6-8 weeks after stopping the therapy.
7) Do I have to make any changes to my lifestyle while undergoing Chemotherapy?
It is advisable to do things which help you to lead a normal life. If you are able to do your work, you should continue doing it. Certain exercises are also permitted. There are no dietary restrictions. Multi-vitamin supplements should be avoided as they can interfere with the chemotherapeutic agents. Alcohol consumption should be reduced. Women of childbearing age should use birth control pills to prevent the risk associated with therapy to the baby.
Do not risk your life due to fear of chemotherapy. Your doctor will definitely weigh the benefits against the risks before prescribing you this therapy. Get treated on time and get back to your normal life as soon as possible.