Common Myths and Misconceptions about Chemotherapy

As people age their risk of developing cancer increases dramatically. A cancer diagnosis comes with many different treatment options, but one of the most popular treatments is chemotherapy. Hearing that you or one of your loved ones must go through chemotherapy is incredibly difficult, and that initial fear can influence future medical decisions. If you or your loved one is going through chemotherapy soon, then keep reading to learn about the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding chemotherapy.

Chemo only kills cancer cells

Malignant tumors are cancerous tumors that grow rapidly within the body. To target them for destruction, chemotherapy drugs inhibit rapid cell growth. To do this, chemotherapy drugs target the cell’s DNA. Unfortunately, chemotherapy does not just inhibit tumor growth; it also inhibits the growth of any cells in the body that grow rapidly. Hair cells and skin cells both rapidly grow and are often targets for chemotherapy. For this reason, hair loss is a common side effect of prolonged chemotherapy treatments.

There is only one type of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is not a standardized treatment for everyone who has cancer. In fact, many people who are diagnosed with cancer may never even take chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy is a term used to describe a variety of drug therapies that target rapidly growing cells such as cancer cells. In today’s advanced medical world, many chemotherapy treatments are becoming very individualized. Two people with the same cancer diagnosis may not receive the same chemotherapy medications. Many patients with cancer also receive many types of chemotherapy. At the beginning of their diagnosis they may receive one type then by the end they may be receiving another type of medication.

Chemo hurts

Before many patients’ first chemotherapy session, they are afraid that chemotherapy will cause a lot of pain. In fact, receiving chemotherapy is almost never painful at all. Chemotherapy does cause many adverse side effects, but pain is often not one of them. Today, chemotherapy medications have been tailored and tweaked to fit individual patients’ needs so the medication is easier to take and to tolerate. The side effect of pain has been almost completely taken out of chemotherapy treatments.

Chemo causes nausea

Most patients are very afraid of being nauseous and sick after receiving chemotherapy treatments. While nausea may be a problem for some people, it actually is very rare in today’s medical world for patients to feel nauseous. Anti-nausea medications taken in conjunction with chemotherapy drugs can greatly reduce a patient’s nausea and overall malaise. New anti-nausea drugs on the market today allow patients to leave the hospital or treatment center almost directly after their chemotherapy treatment. In previous years, patients may be in the hospital or in their bed at home for many days following treatments with nausea, but today, doctors can prescribe medications to counteract the side effects of chemotherapy. Many patients never experience nausea and go on about their daily lives and routines once their treatments are finished.

Your immune system will be destroyed during chemo

Many people believe that chemotherapy drugs greatly reduce their immune system. While chemotherapy can decrease a person’s white blood cell count, the reduction often is not significant enough to put a patient at risk for developing certain viral or bacterial infections. Chemotherapy drugs will cause fatigue and cause a slight reduction in immune cells, but there is no scientific data that suggests that chemotherapy treatments significantly affect a person’s white blood cell count.

Everyone loses their hair

The biggest misconception about chemotherapy is that everyone who undergoes chemo treatment will lose their hair. This is simply not true. The majority of chemotherapy drugs do in fact inhibit rapidly growing cells, and this includes hair follicle cells. However, some new chemotherapy drugs are targeted to treat specific cancer cells or specific cellular machinery that is only found in malignant cells. These new types of chemotherapy will only target the cancer cells and will not cause patients to lose their hair.

Chemo makes you toxic

Chemo drugs are highly toxic and must be administered with great care by a registered nurse or a doctor. Even so, chemo drugs do not make patients toxic and untouchable. One common myth about chemotherapy drugs is that they make patients untouchable due to their toxicity. Patients think that they have to sleep in different beds than their partner and use different bathrooms. This is simply not the case. Chemotherapy drugs may be powerful, but they do not make patients toxic, and patients receiving chemotherapy should not be afraid of contaminating their loved ones.

The cure is worse than the disease

One of the biggest misconceptions about chemotherapy drugs is that undergoing chemotherapy will reduce the quality of a patient’s life for an extended period of time. But in actuality, chemotherapy does not have to be a horrible experience. Many patients feel negative side effects within the first few weeks of treatment, however as they adjust to their medications and take medications specifically for their side effects, they start to feel better. Any side effects patients feel will disappear shortly after their final chemotherapy treatment and patients can get back to their normal routines while in remission from cancer. With today’s medical advances, many cancer patients even continue to work and continue their daily activities during their cancer treatments. Patients can live their normal lives while making only a few small adjustments for their treatments.

Chemotherapy can be a tough treatment for many patients to bear. However, it does not have to be life changing. In today’s medically advanced world, doctors and pharmacists have been able to tweak chemotherapy drugs to make them have fewer side effects and make them more bearable. Many patients who undergo chemotherapy do not even have to quit working to continue their treatments. If you or someone you love is facing chemotherapy treatments, then you can find comfort in the fact that chemotherapy treatments have come a long way in the past few decades. This list of myths and misconceptions can help calm your fears and help you prepare yourself for the first chemotherapy treatment.

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