Cancer Side Effects
Cancer Steals Food From Normal Cells
As PhD student and author Nadja Katheder once said: “Cancer cells absorb nutrients from their neighbours in the form of sugars and amino acids.”
Leukemia, for instance, undercuts the ability of normal cells to consume glucose thus leaving more glucose available to feed its own growth. (Study by the University of Colorado Cancer Center published in “Cancer Cell”)
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the main options available for treatment, either singly or in combination. Such treatment options involve the use of toxic chemicals (chemotherapy) or use of radiation energy or extraction (surgical removal). Chemotherapy targets the cancer cells but also affects healthy cells. These are cells in the mouth, blood, digestive system and hair follicles. Side-effects result because chemotherapy damages good, healthy cells. Painful and uncomfortable side-effects can include ulcers in the mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, anaemia, tiredness, loss of balance, clumsiness, shaking or trembling, hair loss, muscle pain, tingling of the feet, changes in skin tone and color, blood clots etc.
The endurance of pain for long periods by patients during treatment (chemotherapy or radiation) and somewhat debilitating side-effects in the wake of treatment, and its management by oncologists and care givers, constitutes one of the main pillars of cancer.
Cancer and its treatment particularly chemotherapy and radiation can cause considerable side-effects.
The term “side-effect” is used when problems (or “by-products”, “after-effects”) are caused in addition to the desired or main, planned outcome.
Drugs intended to destroy malignant cancer cells also attack active, healthy cells causing, among other things a host of damaging albeit mostly temporary effects: loss of appetite, sore mouth, difficulty in swallowing, hair loss, diarrhoea, burning, numbness, tingling shooting pain, fatigue, paleness and dizziness.
SIDE-EFFECTS OF CANCER TREATMENT
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment as the injected drugs travel all over the body through the blood and covers the entire ‘system’. Radiation is comparatively ‘localised’ to a specific area. While the main outcome is to destroy cancer cells, healthy cells in the body are also temporarily destroyed, leading to ‘side’-effects. The responsibility of repairing damaged cells and getting the system back into shape is handled by Sanjeevan Onco Care’s integrated treatment.
Brain fog or “chemo brain” or memory problems
Hair loss – although this is temporary
Sores can erupt in the mouth, gums, cheeks, tongue and throat
Anxiety and depression as a result of treatment can add to the stress
The body’s ability to produce healthy blood platelets is impaired
Digestive issues like diarrhoea, constipation crop up
Decreased urination may occur as the kidneys may be impacted
Urine may turn reddish temporarily
Swollen hands and feet can be a sign that kidneys are stressed
Bone loss or loss of bone-density can be a long-term factor
The menstrual cycle can be impacted, causing hot flashes leading to early menopause
For those with pre-existing heart conditions, treatment can weaken the heart muscle
Nausea and vomiting
Dis-coloured, cracked fingernails and toenails
Since the digestive system is disturbed, loss of appetite is common
Tired, aching muscles can lead to poor co-ordination
Skin may become dry and itchy and be sensitive to sunlight
Ulcers in the mouth and gums are one of the side-effects of therapy which is designed to attack cancerous cells but also affects healthy, non-cancerous cells. As a result of this, patients are unable to eat (taste buds are also temporarily destroyed). In these circumstances recovery can be delayed. Since onco-treatments are followed by periods of rest and recovery before the next round of treatment (‘cycles’) rapid recovery before the next course of treatment is required. This is where Sanjeevan Onco Care steps in to play a role with its integrated treatment of homeopathy and immunotherapy.
Toxic drugs spoil the inner linings of organs in the stomach. Also, pain-killing drugs are known to restrict good intestinal activity and cause constipation. In such circumstances the integrated treatment can play the role of a soothing balm by multiplying good bacteria in the intestines which leads to easing bowel movements.
Skin problems (discolouring, dryness, itching, peeling, change of tone, darkened and cracked finger nails, rash) are also an unfortunate and distressing side-effect. Sanjeevan Onco Care’s bouquet of medicines reduces side-effects like dryness, itchiness and rashes.
Added to the psychological strain of going through prolonged treatment sessions is the loss of appetite caused by loss of taste fuelled by mouth/throat sores and intestinal discomfort – all this leads to the terrible result of loss of weight and muscles and the loss of valuable time to recover during a non-treatment phase. Again Sanjeevan Onco Care integrated treatment is designed to reduce the after-effects and try to increase appetite which ultimately leads to gaining weight and ensuring good health.
Among the psychologically damaging after-effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatment is the loss of scalp hair. As all fast-growing cells are targeted, even healthy non-cancerous normally fast-growing cells fall within the ambit of the therapy. Although this hair-loss is temporary, a changed appearance with reduced scalp hair, can affect one’s confidence and readiness to resume normal life.
The role of kidneys in eliminating chemotherapy drugs’ effects is vital. Unfortunately the process of treatment can lead to damaging the kidneys, uterus and bladder. Sanjeevan Onco Care’s integrated treatment of homeopathy and immunotherapy focuses on the reduction of inflammation and bleeding in these vital organs.
A low platelets count (thrombocytopenia) is a concern for a patient battling cancer. Platelets are ‘small colourless cell fragments in our blood that form clots and stop or prevent bleeding and are made in our bone marrow, the sponge-like tissue inside our bones.’ (redcrossblood.org). They are vital to normal clotting to stem further bleeding caused by any injury.
Due to tissue damage there is a risk of blood clotting. ‘Cancer thickens the blood . . . so blood clots are liable to form easily. For patients already somewhat immobilized by surgery, chemotherapy inflames vessels and veins and the blood can be clogged with dead cancer cells.’ Some cancer drugs lead to DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) but cancer patients are at risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) – a term that describes both DVT and PE (pulmonary embolism).
Some therapies are linked to causing blood clots: Thalidomide and Lenalidomide (to treat myeloma), Avastin (to treat colon cancer) combination drugs like cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) chlorambucil (leukeran) and nitrogen mustard (mustargen).
A host of infections during and after chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment can often cause alarm. Since white blood cells counts that fight infections are low, one’s immunity can be compromised. In such a scenario Sanjeevan Onco Care’s integrated therapy – a combination of homeopathy and immunotherapy - can be very beneficial in boosting a patient’s immune response.
These side-effects are caused because healthy tissues or organs are affected by the treatment. Side effects have to be managed during the course of the treatment.
Treatment can be chemotherapy or radiation or both preceded by surgery to extract the tumor. In some cases like CML Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia even oral medicine (Glivec) can help.
Chemotherapy works by killing all fast growing cells. In the process unfortunately even healthy white cells are destroyed thereby exposing the body to infections which the white cells would normally protect a person from. The medical term is neutropenia i.e. a decrease in white blood cells.
Lymph nodes can be damaged during chemotherapy or radiation. Lymphedema is caused when lymph nodes swell up as the lymph fluid cannot drain away. Swollen areas can be treated with exercise, massage, compression garment, etc.
DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein. Such clots can occur in the leg or arm or thigh or even break off and enter the lungs. Cancer patients face such risks. Pain, swelling, skin turning red, chest pain, irregular heart-beat are other attendant risks. Sometimes doctors prescribe blood thinners; exercise or gentle movement can be useful too.
Sleep problems / insomnia are a common problem faced by patients during treatment. Part of this is caused by stress, hospital stays and the medicines. Urinary and bladder issues or diarrhoea if happening, need to be taken care of under doctor's advice.
Many recommend relaxation therapy during such times. Muscle relaxation techniques and good pre-sleep habits can be helpful. The management of pain is an important component of coping with the overall treatment. Tracking your pain patterns, the type of pain you feel (sharp or shooting or throbbing) its severity and location, what activities the pain interferes with (e.g. sleep or eating) may be useful to guide doctors with.
Memory loss or concentration: this varies in intensity or degree from person to person. Often paying attention to aspects like nutrition anxiety and fatigue can help. Planning a day when not in hospital or undergoing treatment can be useful as can light exercise which releases endorphins or "feel-good chemicals"
Chemotherapy can harm reproductive organs damaging sperm forming cells in men or the ovaries in women while radiation near the abdomen or spine or ovaries can reduce sperm counts and testosterone levels causing infertility. Treatment near the pituitary gland may sometimes lead to infertility.
Side-effects from radiation are slightly different from those caused by chemotherapy. In that radiation, side-effects are localised, only in the area that are being treated.