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The Side Effects of Cancer Treatments and Over-Diagnosis

by Gab Billones

Aug
26

They say that anything that comes in excess is already bad. But in the medical world, the concept of overtreatment is less considered most especially for severe diseases like cancer.

The idea of overdiagnosis leading to overtreatment is heavily pointed to cancer screening.  And the whole issue of overtreatment dates back on discussions about how early was the cancer discovered and how immediate was the treatment offered.

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According to a statistical data of the National Cancer Institute, overdiagnosis is most common to thyroid, lung, prostate and breast cancer. When these patients avail of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, they suffer from many side effects which affect in return their overall ability to respond to the treatment effectively or at worst continue with them. Some of these are nausea, fatigue, and pain.

Among these cases, nausea is one of the most rampant precisely because it is a common side effect of chemotherapy, the commonest treatment for cancer. And although anti-nausea drugs are being prescribed to patients before the actual treatment, it still gets in the way of those who are gullible to pregnancy-related nausea and motion sickness.

Cancer-related fatigue has also affected about 70% of all cancer patients after taking these medication processes. Apparently, they often feel tired, exhausted and depressed after the treatment. But according to most physicians, post-treatment fatigue is a natural body reaction and the effectiveness of the treatment has nothing to do with the body stress incurred. In such cases, it’s very important to acknowledge the value of following a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, proper diet and reasonable amount of rest must be undertaken to facilitate the treatment of the patient.

Skin and nail changes are also observable to cancer patients. When they feel redness, dryness or itchiness in their skins, it can be the body’s response to the chemotherapy drugs. Even though this can’t be the sole reason in account of renal and liver disease, some drugs like cyclophosphamide and methotrexate can really cause pigmentations.

Water, clear broth and Pedialyte are some of the recommended liquids for intake for cancer patients. They are supposed to drink about 8 to 12 cups of liquid to avoid any traces of dehydration.  Eating raw fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber is also not advisable to people with colorectal cancer and cancer in the gastro-intestinal tract. Drugs like Adrucil and Irinotecan react with enzymes produced by bacteria found in the intestines, thus causing diarrhea.

In a research conducted by Mayo Clinic, cancer treatments also decrease sex drive. These wide ranged therapies affect the nerves, hormones and cells that are involved with sexual function. Coupled with the stress, depression and other side effects, the sex lives of patients are also being affected. On this specific instances, it is important for patients to have an open communication with their partners. While women can seek for medical expertise on the matter, men can also take alternative sex drivers most importantly in the issue of erectile dysfunction, i.e. taking sildenafil.

Hearing and hair loss are also some of the recorded side effects of cancer treatments. According to research, chemotherapy-caused hair loss only lasts from 3-10 months after the last treatment, and then the hair will start growing again. For hearing loss, audiometric exams must be administered. If it gets more serious, a cochlear implant might be necessary.

But more than the medical healing itself, cancer treatments most especially chemotherapy have emotional effects to the patients. The patients feel some sense of hope in chemotherapy, which gives some calmness in the heart of the patients. A lot of studies have stressed the importance of emotional state of balance to facilitate treatment. To further this one, family and friends support is very significant. It plays an essential role to the progress of healing in whatever form. It also seals the family ties which are very important to a sick person.

We can come up with a long list of side effects for cancer treatments and chemotherapy. It might differ from one end to another. But the goal is all the same. And that is to facilitate the treatment of the patient.

If you are a cancer patient, don’t lose hope. You can have symptom management, palliative care or supportive care. You can seal a right diagnosis if they’re just being administered right. When things are taken in the right amount, you can never go off the track.

 

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