For many people, chemotherapy can be a literal lifesaver. This powerful drug treatment is often used after cancer surgery to destroy or slow the growth of any remaining cancer cells in the body. Unfortunately, these treatments can come with some unpleasant side effects. And while many people can tolerate these side effects and can even return to their normal daily lives, others have much more difficulty. In some cases, these side effects can be so debilitating that a patient may actually feel that the chemotherapy is causing them more harm than good. So what are your options if you are having trouble handling your chemotherapy treatments?
Chemotherapy Side Effects
While side effects can vary from patient to patient, the following are some of the more common ones that a patient might experience during their chemotherapy:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sores in the mouth and throat
- Hair loss
- Change in your sense of taste
- Mental fogginess
- Diarrhea or constipation
Consult With Your Oncologist
If you are having a terrible time dealing with the side effects caused by chemotherapy treatments, experts recommend that you record the side effects you are experiencing in a journal so that you can give an accurate depiction of your issues to your oncologist. In your journal, record the type of side effects you are experiencing, the time of day they are occurring and the severity. Your oncologist can then use that that information to recommend ways to lessen the side effects you are experiencing. For example, if you are having trouble with severe nausea and vomiting, your oncologist might prescribe anti-nausea drugs or might lower the dosages of some of your chemotherapy drugs.
There are some people, however, who just can't deal with chemotherapy, even with modifications or additional medications. For example, actress Haley Mills reported that she felt as if she was "dying" and that she was "more frightened of the chemo" treatments than of the disease. So she decided to quit the treatment and self-treat by changing her diet and exercising. Mills did caution that, while this self-treatment worked for her, she does not believe it will work for everyone. If you are thinking about quitting chemotherapy, discuss the idea with your oncologist, and also your family members, first.
It's possible that your oncologist may agree with you. The thinking on chemotherapy has changed over the years. According to Choosing Wisely, some oncologists are now recommending that patients with advanced solid tumors that are not responding to treatment should not continue with chemotherapy. Not surprisingly, this idea has been rather controversial, as some people believe that a patient should utilize any and all available tools to fight their disease.
In addition, you may want to stop chemotherapy if you are positive that your cancer is so advanced that your treatments may only be prolonging your life, but also making your last days on earth too miserable to enjoy. According to the New York Times, chemotherapy will not cure advanced Stage 4 cancers, but is only meant to extend your life a few months or, possibly, years. So for some people, the quality of life becomes more important than the quantity of life.
The Future of Cancer Treatment
According to Time, there may be a day in the near future where chemotherapy treatments may become a thing of the past. Instead, doctors may begin using drugs that specifically target cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone. And that would be a huge difference since, unfortunately, chemotherapy attacks both healthy and cancerous cells indiscriminately. Hopefully, that day will arrive sooner rather than later.
If you are having difficulty with your chemotherapy treatments, it is important not to suffer in silence. Talk with your oncology doctor. There may be ways that they can help your treatment experience become more bearable.