Chemotherapy As Cancer Treatment: What You Need To Know

Cancer is one of those words that holds the power to reduce people to tears. As soon as a person hears the word being uttered, it won’t matter to them initially whether it’s the first stage or the last because most people fear for the worst and their fear is understandable. One of the factors that causes major concern in people is with regard to cancer treatment by means of chemotherapy. They might have heard all the scary stories while having scarce comprehension about what it exactly is and most importantly, that many people have traversed this path with admirable strength. If you’re someone looking for a basic understanding of chemotherapy, read on.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a medical procedure that helps stop the growth of cancer cells using drugs. This sounds alright but most of us know the effects of the treatment aren’t always pleasant. This is because along with the cancer cells, chemotherapy tends to destroy healthy cells as well like those found in the digestive tract, mouth, reproductive system, blood marrow cells and hair growth cells.

How Is Chemo Different From Other Forms Of Cancer Treatment?

Chemotherapy Cause Damage To Healthy Cells As Well As Cancer Cells

We may have heard of other forms of cancer treatment like radiation and surgery. Chemotherapy is different from those forms of treatment as they target only the cancer affected area. Chemotherapy on the other hand, impacts the entire body and is used in cases where the cancer has spread and is no longer in one isolated area.

What Are The Common Side Effects?

Chemotherapy And Other Forms Of Cancer Treatment

There are many side effects of chemotherapy as the drugs affect both the cancer cells as well as the healthy cells. Some of the most common side-effects include:

Hair Loss

Hair Loss

This is one of the most common side effects associated with treatment of cancer through chemotherapy. Apart from the change in physical appearance that it causes, it can also emotionally impact both the patient and the loved ones around them. It is essential that the patients loved ones are sensitive to the change in body image and lifestyle that may pursue after this stage.


When the chemotherapy drugs enters the body, the brain recognized it as a foreign body and tries its best to expel it out of the system through vomit. The Cancercare organization reports, “In a complex series of signals among the brain and the mouth, stomach, small intestine and bloodstream, the medication stimulates the “vomiting center” in the brain. Several chemicals, including ones called serotonin and substance P, are released, triggering the nausea and vomiting reflex. This is the body’s effort to get rid of the foreign substance.”

Nerve Damage

Another side effect that could arise as a result of chemotherapy is nerve damage. This is characterized by symptoms that include a difficulty in picking up objects, loss of hearing, difficulty walking, balance issues and experiencing pins and needles.


A person’s body tends to take on a lot when it is subjected to chemotherapy. It is therefore natural to feel extremely tired during this process. Apart from the fatigue caused as a result of the treatment, the emotional bearing that people undertake during this time can also lead them to feel drained and exhausted.

How Long Do The Side Effects Last?

According to the American Cancer Society, “Many side effects go away fairly quickly after treatment ends, but some may take months or even years to completely go away. The time it takes to get over some side effects and get your energy back varies from person to person. It depends on many factors, including your overall health and the drugs you were given.”

Staying Strong Through The Process

It is important to note the individuals who have made the decision to undertake chemotherapy, are aware of all the possible side effects that they may experience. Preparation for the worst effects and hope for the best outcome is the most appropriate path in handling this difficult situation. There are several self-help books and websites written especially for people who have been diagnosed with cancer and can offer emotional support as well as practical advice on how to deal with the process right down to the financial aspects of it.

The Pain Of Seeing A Loved One Deteriorate

No doubt patients undergoing chemotherapy are going through a difficult process but sometimes, it is harder still for their loved ones who see them suffer. Apart from the emotional support that you have to offer to your loved one, you must also make sure that you are receiving adequate support as well. No one denies that this process can be extremely exhausting emotionally and all parties involved can and should ask for help. Fortunately, help is available in plenty. You can approach support groups or talk to cancer survivors who have been down the same road and can offer you their insight.