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Chemotherapy and Radiation Side Effects

Chemotherapy and Radiation Side Effects

2014 - 01 - 09

Hair loss and nausea are probably the most commonly feared side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. However, patients undergoing treatment for cancer often suffer from compromised immune function, low blood cell counts, lack of appetite, poor energy, weight loss, digestive disturbances, pain, anxiety and depression as well.

The National Cancer Institute lists the following common chemotherapy side effects : Anemia, appetite changes, bleeding problems, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, hair loss, infection, memory changes, mouth and throat changes, nausea and vomiting, nerve changes, pain, sexual and fertility changes, skin and nail changes, swelling (fluid retention), and urination changes.

“Changes” is generally a nice way of saying “problems.”

The American Cancer Society lists the following common radiation side effects : Fatigue, skin problems, hair loss, blood count changes, and eating problems. Radiation can damage normal cells, and sometimes this damage can have long-term effects. For instance, radiation to the chest area may affect the lungs or heart. Radiation to the abdomen or pelvis can lead to bladder, bowel, or sexual problems in some people. Radiation can also lead to fluid build-up and swelling (lymphedema), particularly common after breast irradiation.

Of additional concern to patients treated for cancer is the risk of cancer recurrence or risk for another cancer. The recurrence rate for breast cancer, for example, is between 10% and 20%, according to the American Cancer Society. In a new report from the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology, researchers reviewed the cases of more than two million cancer survivors and concluded that those treated for cancer have a 14% higher risk of developing a subsequent new malignancy than would be expected in the general population.

One of the most pressing issues faced by cancer patients is quality of life or lack thereof. Millions of U.S. cancer survivors have a lower-than-normal quality of life, according to a study published in the Oct. 30, 2012 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. The investigators found that 25 percent of cancer survivors had lower than normal physical-health-related quality of life, and 10 percent had lower than normal mental-health-related quality of life. In all, about 3.3 million U.S. cancer survivors have a below-average physical quality of life, and nearly 1.4 million have a below-average mental quality of life, the researchers estimated.

For all of the above-stated reasons, cancer patients often look for holistic cancer treatment, integrative medicine, and complementary and alternative therapy (CAM) to improve quality of life and disease outcome.  In fact, approximately 83 percent of persons with cancer use at least one complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modality. However, most patients, confused or overwhelmed by the nearly 13 million resources for alternative cancer therapy available on the internet, turn for support to cancer coaches to help them navigate their choices.  We at BeatCancer.org have been offering cancer counseling, guidance, resources and referrals for over 35 years.

Many patients who contact us are looking for ways to manage the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.  Other patients are not candidates for, have failed on, or refuse conventional oncologic treatment. In either case, patients seeking to enhance their ability to heal are often hampered by physical, geographic, and/or financial limitations.  At BeatCancer.org, our unique model of no-fee telephone counseling makes our potentially life-saving assistance accessible to all.  Our experience providing individualized guidance for nearly 30,000 patients has been shown to impact significantly our patients’ quality of life, risk for recurrence, and cancer survival.

 

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References:

[1] http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemo-side-effects

[2] http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/treatmenttypes/radiation/understandingradiationtherapy aguideforpatientsandfamilies/understanding-radiation-therapy-common-side-effects

[3] New Malignancies Among Cancer Survivors: SEER Cancer Registries, 1973-2000

[4] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_130814.html

[5] Richardson MA, Mâsse LC, Nanny K, Sanders C. Discrepant views of oncologists and cancer patients on complementary/alternative medicine. Support Care Cancer. 2004 Nov12(11):797-804.PMID: 15378417

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