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Mace and Crown | May 20, 2018

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The Risks of Chemotherapy as a Cancer Treatment

The Risks of Chemotherapy as a Cancer Treatment
Krislyn McCann
Contributing Writer

The devastating news of cancer can be more monstrous than what cancer and its treatment does to the body. When patients are first told, doctors resort to the most common treatment, chemotherapy. Chemotherapy has many positives such as killing cancerous cells, prolonging remission, and also giving patients and families hope. Despite the valued results of chemotherapy, this treatment has a multitude of negative effects that are far worse for the body than the positive ones. The physical toll on the body including the elimination of healthy cells add to the negative effects which can be worse than the positive effects.

Even though chemotherapy has many damaging effects, it slows the growth and can even kill cancerous cells.

“Chemotherapy has five goals: total remission, combination therapy, delay/prevent reoccurrence, slow down caner progression and relieve symptoms,” according to Nordqvist. The Cancer Research UK states chemo cannot always completely cure the patient. It depends on the type of cancer. However, if it can’t completely cure the cancer, it can shrink the cancer, control it or prolong remission time.

Even if chemo doesn’t stop the growth of cancer, it gives patients time to do things in their life and spend time with family and friends. A patient can either have partial or complete remission, in which the cancerous cells are barely there or absolutely invisible. Complete remission is obviously more exciting, yet partial remission still gives patients time and hope.

Many believe, and it has been known to happen, the cancer will be gone after chemotherapy. The light at the end of the tunnel gives most the ambition to look and think forward.

Although chemotherapy does have these positive results, many overlook the negatives, which can almost seem worse than the benefits. The physical tolls on the body commonly begins with hair loss.

“Chemotherapy may cause hair loss all over your body — not just on your scalp. Sometimes your eyelash, eyebrow, armpit, pubic and other body hair also falls out. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely than others to cause hair loss, and different doses can cause anything from a mere thinning to complete baldness,” Mayo Clinic states.

Yet, the loss of hair is not the only physical loss. Patients can sometimes lose toe nails, control of the bladder, weight, muscles and hearing.


Credit: BeBe Ragsdale

“Scientists from Oregon Health & Science University reported that deafness as a side effect of chemotherapy has long been underreported by the medical community, because a well-known classification system doctors use for reporting toxicities in patients does not consider high-frequency hearing loss,” according to Nordqvist.

In addition to the physical toll, the emotional toll can be devastating. From the initial diagnosis of cancer to the final dose of chemotherapy, patients undergo levels of emotional distress well beyond a healthy limit. Some emotional effects can be intertwined with memory loss and exhaustion.

“Chemotherapy drugs may cause problems with memory or make it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. This symptom sometimes is called “chemo fog,” or “chemo brain,” Healthline states.

Along with the physical and emotional damage to the patient, chemotherapy also takes a turn for the worse by killing perfectly healthy cells throughout the body, which also leads to more symptoms. It can kill healthy cells in the execratory system, the circulatory system and the immune system.

In the process of trying to excrete the chemo drugs, some kidney and bladder cells can become irritated or damaged. Symptoms of kidney damage include decreased urination, swelling of the hands and feet and headaches. These are all reasons why the negative effects on the body are much more damaging and harmful than the positive effects.
In conclusion, chemotherapy is said to have positive results for killing or slowing the growth of cancerous cells. However, the more destructive outcomes such as the physical and emotional toll and the killing of healthy cells, are all reasons why patients shouldn’t first look to chemotherapy when diagnosed with cancer.