Cancer And Chemotherapy: What You Need To Know

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Cancer cells

I will be talking about what Cancer is, and the effect of Chemotherapy on the body, as we all know that human is made up of cells[cell is the smallest unit of life]. These cells age and die.

Cancer is a condition in which some cells in the body develop uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body.

Cancer can develop almost anywhere in the human body, which contains trillions of cells. Human cells normally develop and multiply (a process known as cell division) to generate new cells as the body requires them. Cells die as they become old or injured, and new cells replace them.

When this ordered mechanism fails, aberrant or damaged cells grow and reproduce when they should not. These cells can combine to produce tumors, which are tissue masses. Tumors may or may not be cancerous (benign).

Cancerous tumors infiltrate neighboring tissues and can move to distant locations in the body to produce new tumors (a process called metastasis). Cancerous tumors may also be called malignant tumors. Many cancers create solid tumors, while blood cancer, such as leukaemias, does not.

Benign tumors do not penetrate or spread into surrounding tissues. When benign tumors are excised, they usually do not recur, although cancerous tumors occasionally do. However, benign tumors can grow to be extremely enormous at times. Some, such as benign brain tumors, can cause serious symptoms or be fatal.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy works by concentrating on active cells. Active cells are those that are growing and dividing normally as part of the cell cycle. Cancer cells, like healthy cells, are active cells that go through the cell cycle. Cancer cells often develop faster than normal, healthy cells, making chemotherapy more effective in attacking cancer cells. However, the treatment will also harm some normal cells. Cells in your blood, mouth, digestive system and hair follicles are examples.

Chemotherapy is an effective treatment for many types of cancer. However, it frequently causes negative effects, as do other cancer treatments. It is critical to be informed of the potential side effects of chemotherapy so that you can be on the lookout for them and work with your health care team to prevent and alleviate them.

Chemotherapy side effects vary from person to person. They are determined by the type of cancer, the location, the medications and dosage, and your overall health.

When chemotherapy affects these healthy cells, side effects occur. You may, for example, lose your hair or endure nausea and vomiting.

The majority of chemotherapy side effects do not indicate how effectively the treatment is working.

Can chemotherapy side effects be treated?

Yes. Many adverse effects can be prevented or treated by your medical team. Many more drugs are available today to treat adverse effects than in the past. Palliative care or supportive care involves the prevention and treatment of adverse effects. It is an essential component of cancer treatment at any stage.

Doctors and scientists are continually attempting to discover medications, drug combinations, and means of administering treatment with fewer adverse effects. Many forms of chemotherapy now have fewer adverse effects than they did only a few years ago.

What are some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy?

The adverse effects you experience throughout chemotherapy are determined by the drugs or combination of treatments administered. Different medications have various negative effects. And everyone’s experience is unique. Even while taking the same medication, people may not suffer the same adverse effects. If you take the same drug again, you may experience different side effects than before.

That is why it is critical to communicate with your cancer care team on a regular basis about any side effects you are concerned about or experiencing. Inform them of all the side effects you’ve noticed. Tracking side effects over time and sharing that information with your care professionals may be beneficial.

Chemotherapy frequently causes the following negative effects:

Fatigue. Fatigue is defined as feeling tired or exhausted despite getting enough sleep. It is the most common complication of chemotherapy. Learn about how to cope with weariness.

Loss of hair. Some chemotherapy treatments, but not all, induce hair loss. Hair on your body may fall out in small clumps or in huge quantities. Hair loss typically begins after the first few weeks of chemotherapy. It usually increases after 1 to 2 months of chemotherapy. Based on the drugs and doses you are taking, your doctor can anticipate your risk of hair loss. Learn more about dealing with hair loss.

Pain. Chemotherapy can be painful at times. This could include:

Headaches

Muscle ache

stomach ache

Nerve injury pain can manifest as burning, numbness, or shooting pains in the fingers and toes.

Most types of discomfort associated with chemotherapy improve or disappear between sessions. However, nerve damage frequently worsens with each subsequent dose. Sometimes the substance that is causing the nerve damage must be discontinued. Chemotherapy nerve damage might take months or years to heal or disappear. It may cause irreversible damage to certain persons.

The treatment of any cancer-related discomfort will begin with an examination of the underlying cause. It is critical to discuss your pain levels with your medical team during chemotherapy. Aside from the chemotherapy, there may be other causes of pain. If the discomfort is caused by chemotherapy, doctors can treat it as follows:

Medications for pain relief

Blocking pain impulses from the nerves to the brain via spinal procedures or nerve blocks

Changing the dosage of specific medications

Find out more about cancer pain and how to deal with it.
Sores in the mouth and throat. Chemotherapy can cause cell damage in the mouth and throat. This results in painful sores in these locations, a condition known as mucositis. Typically, mouth sores appear 5 to 14 days following a therapy. It is also critical to keep an eye out for infection in these sores.

A nutritious diet and keeping your mouth and teeth clean can reduce your risk of developing mouth sores. When treatment is completed, mouth sores usually disappear completely. Learn more about how to manage mucositis, including how to relieve pain.

Diarrhoea. Some chemotherapy causes loose or watery stools. Preventing or treating diarrhoea early might help you avoid becoming dehydrated (losing too much body fluid). It also aids in the prevention of other health issues. Learn more about diarrhoea management.

Constipation. Constipation can be caused by chemotherapy. This includes not having enough bowel motions or having uncomfortable bowel movements. Constipation can also be caused by other medications, such as pain relievers. Constipation can be avoided by drinking plenty of fluids, eating well-balanced meals, and engaging in frequent exercise. Learn more about constipation management.

Vomiting and nausea. Chemotherapy can make you feel sick to your stomach and make you vomit (throwing up). The frequency with which you experience these adverse effects is determined by the specific drugs and dose. There are drugs that can typically prevent nausea and vomiting that are administered before and after each dosage of chemotherapy. Learn more about vomiting and nausea.

Disorders of the blood. The spongy tissue inside your bones is called bone marrow. It generates new blood cells. Because chemotherapy impacts this process, you may experience negative effects from having too few blood cells.

After chemotherapy, the number of blood cells usually returns to normal. However, low blood cell counts might create complications during treatment and must be continuously monitored. During chemotherapy, your doctor will do two blood tests: a complete blood count (CBC) and a platelet count.

A CBC test determines the concentrations of red and white blood cells in your blood. Anaemia is a disorder caused by a lack of red blood cells. Fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath are some of the symptoms. Leukopenia is a disorder caused by a lack of white blood cells. This increases your chances of contracting an infection. An infection might be deadly if your white blood cells are low. If this occurs, you will require antibiotics as soon as possible.

The quantity of platelets in your blood is measured by a platelet count. Platelets are blood cells that help to stop bleeding. They accomplish this by sealing damaged blood arteries and assisting blood clot formation. Thrombocytopenia is a condition caused by a lack of platelets. You are more likely to bleed and bruise than usual.

Chemotherapy doses are frequently altered to prevent low blood counts. These blood abnormalities can also be treated with medications. The medications stimulate your bone marrow to produce more blood cells. They can aid in the prevention of leukopenia in persons who are at high risk.

Effects on the nervous system. Some medications induce nerve injury. The following nerve or muscle problems may result from this:

Tingling

Burning

Weakness or numbness in the hands, feet, or both

Weak, sore, tired, or achy muscles

Loss of balance

Shaking or trembling

Stiff neck or headache

Problems seeing, hearing, or walking normally

Feeling clumsy

These symptoms normally improve as the chemotherapy dose is reduced or after treatment. After chemotherapy, it can take 6 to 12 months for symptoms to improve. Some adverse effects are long-term. Learn more about how to deal with nervous system side effects.

Changes in cognition and memory. Following chemotherapy, some people have difficulty thinking clearly and concentrating. Chemobrain is a term used by cancer survivors to describe this condition. Your doctor may refer to this as cognitive changes or cognitive impairment. After treatment, this problem normally improves or resolves. Learn more about dealing with issues with attention, thinking, and remembering.

Sexual and reproductive problems. Chemotherapy can have an impact on your fertility. Fertility is the ability to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy, as well as the ability to make someone else pregnant. If you wish to have a child following cancer treatment, talk to your cancer care team about fertility preservation alternatives before starting chemotherapy.

Being fatigued or unwell from cancer or treatment can interfere with your ability to enjoy sex. Before beginning therapy, discuss these potential side effects with your doctor. Find out more about dealing with sexual and reproductive side effects.

Some patients may require a Pap test before beginning chemotherapy. This is due to the fact that chemotherapy might create false test findings. A Pap test collects a sample of cervix cells.

Chemotherapy can potentially be harmful to an unborn child. This is particularly true in the first three months of pregnancy when the organs are still growing. Use effective birth control if you think you might become pregnant while on therapy. If you become pregnant, notify your doctor straight away. Learn more about pregnancy cancer.

Appetite suppression. You may eat less than usual, not feel hungry at all, or feel satisfied after only a modest amount of food. If this continues throughout therapy, you may lose weight and not obtain enough nutrition. Muscle mass and strength may also be lost. All of these factors make recovery from chemotherapy more difficult. Learn more about coping with appetite loss.

Heart issues. Certain types of chemotherapy can harm your heart. Inquire with your doctor if your heart will require testing prior to therapy. Doctors will be able to identify if the treatment produces difficulties later on. Echocardiography is a common test (echo). This test uses ultrasonic waves to provide a moving image of the heart. Learn more about cardiac problems associated with cancer therapy.

Are any of the negative effects of chemotherapy permanent?
The majority of side effects disappear after the chemotherapy is finished. However, some persist, return, or evolve later. Some forms of chemotherapy, for example, may cause lasting harm to the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, or reproductive system. Furthermore, some patients have difficulty thinking, concentrating, and remembering for months or years after treatment. Cancer survivors are considerably more likely to get secondary cancers later in life.

Children who have received chemotherapy are at risk of experiencing certain adverse effects months or years after treatment. Find out more about the long-term effects on childhood cancer survivors.

Follow-up care after chemotherapy

Getting care following cancer therapy is critical. Your medical team can assist you in treating long-term side effects and monitoring for late consequences. This is known as follow-up care. Regular physical examinations, medical testing, or both may be part of your follow-up treatment.


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Gbenga Elebiyo

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