Decoding the most common myths behind chemo
Chemotherapy is prescribed to people undergoing cancer treatment. Most women who undergo breast cancer surgery are prescribed regular intervals of chemotherapy over four to six months. It is an essential part of breast cancer treatment and is also the most feared one. The word instantly brings up daunting thoughts of nausea and hair loss. But how much of this fear has sprung up from myth? Dr Neelesh Reddy, Consultant Medical Oncology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Bangalore, helps us decode the facts behind some of the most common chemotherapy myths.
Myth: If the doctor recommends chemotherapy then that means I am extremely sick.
Fact: Unlike the olden days, today doctors recommend chemotherapy to cancer patients for curative reasons where chemotherapy is combined with surgery and/or radiation and does not mean that you are extremely sick.
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Myth: Chemotherapy is painful.
Fact: The side effects of chemotherapy may involve pain but the actual chemotherapy session is not painful.
Myth: I’ll have to spend a lot of time in the hospital during my chemotherapy sessions.
Fact: Most patients begin their chemotherapy sessions by morning and can get done by afternoon or evening. They don’t even have to spend an entire day at the hospital. Chemotehrapy intervals could happen once in three weeks or once in a week, but in either case the patient doesn’t have to stay in the hospital.
Myth: I’m going to be fatigued and nauseated for a long time once I start chemotherapy.
Fact: Each person has a different tolerance level, therefore not everyone has the same side effects of chemotherapy. While some get none to mild side effects others are affected severely. These side effects begin a day or two after your first chemotherapy session. They gradually diminish over time.
Myth: If I don’t feel sick after chemotherapy, may be it’s not really working
Fact: It is not rare that some people don’t get sick at all after their chemotherapy sessions. This only means that they have a stronger tolerance level.
Myth: I will lose all my hair once I start chemotherapy.
Fact: Chemotherapy involves medicines that cause hair loss. But you won’t lose hair as soon as you start your sessions. It begins thinning and then gradually falls but your hair will grow back once your chemotherapy sessions are over.
Myth: I will feel alright as soon as I’m done with my chemotherapy sessions.
Fact: Side effects can last up to two weeks from your chemotherapy injection. There are a lot of changes that happen to your body after chemo and it may take a while before you feel normal again. You must not expect to feel normal soon after chemotherapy.
Myth: Chemotherapy will affect my immunity.
Fact: Chemo is used to kill cancerous cells but they also land up harming your white blood cells (WBC). This fall in WBC affects your immunity and increases the risk of infection. But your WBCs gets stable two weeks after your final chemotherapy session.
Myth: I won’t get pregnant during my chemotherapy sessions. / I may not be able to have children after I start chemotherapy.
Fact: It is advisable not to conceive during your chemotherapy sessions as the chemotherapy will affect the foetus. But conception is possible once you finish with all your chemotherapy sessions.
Myth: Chemotherapy is much more painful than cancer.
Fact: Modern medicines make the surgery as painless as possible. The chemotherapy sessions too aren’t painful. The side effects from these sessions are the only thing that may cause the patient some discomfort.
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