Myths about chemotherapy

For the past half a century, chemotherapy has played a crucial role in the ongoing battle against cancer, providing doctors and oncologists with the means to fight cancer at the cellular level. But despite chemotherapy’s importance as a vital medical advancement, myths and misunderstandings abound. Indeed, most of us have very little knowledge of how the process works.

The word “chemotherapy” evokes images of very ill people suffering through their cancer treatment. But we’ve made enormous strides over the last couple of decades that have minimized chemotherapy’s side effects  and these days patients hardly exhibit any side effects.

Our patients ask a lot of questions about chemotherapy. They want to know how their life will be impacted. Often, they have concerns about how they will feel and what they will experience.

Here are some of the biggest myths  about chemotherapy.

When my doctor wants me to begin chemotherapy it must signify that I am terminally sick:-

No it is not so, not only chemotherapy is prescribed for palliative setting but also in adjuvant and neoadjuvant setting where chance of care is high.  Lot of patients receiving chemotherapy will eventually be cured and will remain disease free for rest of the life. The type of chemotherapy prescribed and frequency of administration depends on the type of cancer and is not indicative of a patient’s outlook. In fact, chemotherapy is most often used as a preventive measure to prevent cancer from recurring at a later date and improve the odds of cure.

I am going to be sick and nauseous for a long time:-

While nausea can be a problem for some people, it has been limited as a major side effect in the past several years. We are now at the point where illness and nausea is a rarity. New agents are able to very effectively control the symptoms of nausea and allow patients to leave the hospital almost directly after treatment,

I will lose all my hair once I start chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy will not always cause hair loss in patients. Chemotherapy will involve drugs that cause hair to thin as well as fall out, but many people experience no hair loss. But for those patients who do suffer from hair thinning or total loss, it will grow back (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch a month is typical) after a treatment course is complete. In some cases, regrowth begins before the treatment is even done.  If the chemotherapy regimen is going to cause hair loss, patients can plan accordingly by manufacturing wigs of own choice till their hair grows back.

Chemo will affect my entire life:

The drastic side effects that most individuals experience many years ago are not as common today, thanks to medical advancements.

Chemo is painful :- 

Many patients who are afraid of the pain they believe chemo will cause.  Chemotherapy never causes pain.

Immunity is compromised during chemo :-

Great number of her patients assume their immune systems are severely compromised during treatment, and that they are in great danger from a variety of infections. “From a medical point of view, there is a reduction in the white blood cell count .This reduction, however, is not significant enough, nor does it occur for a long enough period of time, to put a patient at a greater risk of viral infections or fevers .

I can’t get pregnant during chemo:-

This is a big one.. It is a misconception that i find necessary to address with patients at the very beginning of their treatment cycle. Many women and their partners assume that they cannot conceive during chemotherapy, and find out how wrong they are a short time into treatment.  Pregnancy can be an enormous complication during chemo, so extra vigilance is recommended. And it’s not just women who think they’re infertile. Chemotherapy does not necessarily kill sperm cells, so men should not forgo regular birth control methods when they are undergoing chemo.  However, there are ways to deal with these issues. For instance, women can harvest eggs and men can bank sperm for later use. If having children after treatment is important to you, speak to a specialist about your reproductive options before beginning chemotherapy.

The cure is worse than the disease:

Many people are under the impression that chemotherapy will significantly reduce their quality of life for an extended period of time. We meet more and more cancer survivors, and encounter so many more individuals who continue working and living their lives with only a few small concessions to their treatment. Chemo can take an emotional, mental and physical toll, but it is not as devastating as many patients assume. Furthermore, treatments have become so effective that,  “we have turned cancer into a chronic disease rather than acute disease that kills.

I’ll have to spend a lot of time in the hospital, and it will be very disruptive to my life.
Chemotherapy drugs are administered now in many different ways, depending on a patient’s condition and needs. Most chemo is given intravenously through a needle or catheter, but sometimes chemo drugs can be given with a simple shot, or even in a pill or liquid form that you can take at home.

My cancer is God’s will and there’s nothing anyone can do to change the course of my disease.  This is a common cultural belief, but in fact, getting treatment for cancer may be the very thing that will save your life. “We have chemotherapies now that really do change the course of disease and can save lives — not just prolong life

Chemotherapy can be a tough slog for those who must endure it, but the myths about the treatment engender a fear that has little basis in reality. Most of the public seems to think of chemotherapy much as it was in the ’50s or ’60s, and are unaware of the immense changes that the process has undergone.


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