Cancer treatments invariably lead to some side effects or the other and that is a very major concern area for most patients. The treatments ( both chemotherapy regimens as well as radiation therapy) basically aim to destroy fast growing and multuplying cancer cells but in the process they also end up affecting healthy cells as well.
Minimizing side effects of the chemotherapy drugs ( while increasing their efficacy againgst the tumours) is a constant challenge for the researchers and medical oncologists and there has been significant progress on both counts. Many of the new chemo drugs have much lower toxicity and also result in fewer side effects.
On the radiation oncology front also, there has been an ongoing pursuit of maximizing the radiation doses to the tumour and minimizing the radiation exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues. The current technology like IGRT ( Image guided radiation therapy) aims to precisely attain just that objective through on-board imaging facilities while delivering the radiation. Cyberknife is another invention that has great capabilities of delivering precise radiation even to brain tumours.
Side effects are quite different for different types of cancers and different patients receiving same treatments respond very differently and develop highly varying degree of side effects ranging from substantial to none whatsoever. Patient's overall health, their living habits and related factors also play a part.
It is, therefore, very important to discuss in detail with your oncologist regarding your specific situation and what possible side effects are expected and what are his / her recommendations for minimizing the same and also what possible precautions could be taken to manage the resulting side effects as some of them are inevitable.
Amongst the most common side effects are nausea, hair loss, weight gain or weight loss, lower blood counts, appetite loss, dry mouth, physical abilities deterioration/ stamina loss , swelling in the limbs and sexual dysfunction etc. Each one of these side effects can cause significant distress to the patients and affect their self-image leading to psychological and emotional issues impacting their and their family members' lives in a substantial manner.
In the next issue of my blog, I will cover how to manage some of these issues so that the overall impact on you and yours is minimized.
Good luck and God bless. My thoughts and prayers are always there for each one of you whether you are directly or indirectly affected by this dreaded disease.
Remember " Every Life Matters"
Pradeep K Jaisingh
MD & CEO
International Oncology Services Pvt. Ltd.