Updated: May 27
While the medical community has made great strides in treating cancer patients with chemotherapy, there are still myths
and misconceptions surrounding these medications. Misconceptions about chemotherapy may make you feel confused or scared about your treatment. Learning the facts will help you feel more comfortable with chemotherapy.
Here are the some of the most common myths and misconceptions regarding chemotherapy:
There’s only one type of chemotherapy, and it can treat any type of cancer
Many people believe all kinds of cancer can be treated with the same chemotherapy drug. This is not true as different drugs treat different types of cancer and work in different ways. According to the American Cancer Society, different chemotherapy drugs work by destroying cancer cells, shrinking tumors, and relieving symptoms of cancer. Chemotherapy may be administered before, after, or in conjunction with other treatments.
Chemotherapy doesn’t work
While new cancer treatments are continuously being developed, chemotherapy remains the gold standard for most types of cancers because it works. Chemo improves survival and increase cure rates for many cancers. Testicular cancer, for example, now has a 99% cure rate, which was not possible prior to the development of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is painful
Many patients are afraid of the pain from chemo. This is one of chemo’s most common myths. While there are side effects, chemo medications have advanced so much that many patients will be treated on an outpatient basis. While chemo may have its drawbacks, pain is one that has significantly been reduced.
Chemotherapy is outdated. Immunotherapy is better
Doctors still prescribe chemotherapy to prevent cancer cells from dividing. Immunotherapy, a newer form of cancer treatment, uses a patient’s immune system to fight their cancer. While it’s promising, it has yet to have been shown to work for all kinds of cancer. Chemotherapy is still the treatment that oncologists rely on.
Chemo will make me sick and nauseous for a long time
While nausea is a common side effect of chemo, not everyone experiences this. Talk to your doctors about any vomiting, nausea, or pain, because they may be able to adjust your treatment and lessen those symptoms.
Chemo is only administered intravenously
When most people think of chemotherapy, they think of getting an IV as part of an extended hospital stay. In actuality, there are many different ways these drugs can be administered. According to the Mayo Clinic, chemotherapy can be administered through:
Chemo will make me lose all my hair
Not every chemotherapy drug causes hair loss. Some chemo drugs only cause hair thinning. How much hair you lose depends on the type of chemo you receive as well as the drug combination. Most types of chemotherapy affect the rapidly dividing cells in the body, such as those in the hair follicle. However, patients can take targeted chemo meds that influence specific cells. With these types of drugs, the hair is usually not affected. The START Center provides a product known as the DigniCap Scalp Cooling System to help prevent hair loss. Call 210-593-5700 today or follow this link to find out if DigniCap can help you during treatment.
Chemo will make me toxic
While chemo drugs are, in fact, powerful medications with toxic properties, they don’t make you untouchable. You will still, for example, be able to sleep next to your partner and use the same bathroom. A chemo patient can’t contaminate others with toxic excretions, so there is no issue with maintaining a normal lifestyle.
I won’t be able to have children after chemo
With chemotherapy, every effort is made to spare a patient’s fertility. Men can freeze their sperm, and women can freeze their eggs. There are also drugs for women that suppress ovarian function during chemo treatment. Many women go on to have safe pregnancies and healthy children after chemotherapy.
My immunity will be compromised during chemo
Many cancer patients assume their immune systems will be severely compromised during chemotherapy, and that they are at high risk of infections. While there is a reduction in the white blood cell count during chemo, the reduction is not significant in most cases. Chemo drugs are powerful, and the patient may become more fatigued than usual while taking them, but it is unlikely chemo will significantly weaken the immune system.
Chemotherapy treatment feels worse than simply dealing with cancer
The pros of going through with chemotherapy greatly outweigh those of forgoing treatment for cancer. Studies show that chemo typically delivers a cure, a prolongation of survival, or a reduction of cancer symptoms. Doctors do not administer chemo to make peoples’ lives worse.
Chemo patients have to spend a lot of time in the hospital
Chemo sessions can vary depending on the patient. Many chemo sessions don’t exceed an hour. The majority of cancer patients can be treated as outpatients, so they don’t need to be hospitalized for long periods. There are also many cancer patients who are allowed to bring their medication home and take it there.
I’ll feel better as soon as I’m done with chemo
It can sometimes take anywhere from three months to a year before you start feeling like your normal self again. Ceasing chemotherapy involves an adjustment process and can be an emotional time. Give yourself some time after chemo. Realize that you will feel better, it just probably won’t be immediate.
The START Center for Cancer Care in San Antonio provides cutting-edge cancer treatment
backed by a commitment to advancing cancer care. Our highly skilled and qualified team
works hard to offer each cancer patient a comprehensive treatment plan that includes multi-specialty services, targeted therapies, genetic profiling of tumors, state-of-the-art treatment technology, and easy access to clinical research options. For more information about how we can help you or a loved one in the fight against cancer, call 210-593-5700 today or follow this link.