What will happen to her body when she is undergoing chemotherapy? What kind of pain will she have to go through? Is she mentally prepared for chemotherapy? Will chemotherapy affect her emotionally? The mind is occupied with ample thoughts and emotions when loved ones undergo chemotherapy, and, fear is the most distressing one.
1. Fear of losing hair:
Loss of hair is among the most common side effects of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy affects all the cells in the body including the healthy ones, especially the ones that grow rapidly. Here are a few more things you must know about hair loss and chemotherapy:
• Not everyone faces an equal amount of hair loss.
• The amount of hair loss, thinning, or falling of hair depends on the chemotherapy dosage and medication.
• Hair loss due to chemotherapy can be sudden or can be a slow process.
• Patients may either lose all the hair or just a part of it.
• It is possible to lose hair from all parts of the body; not just on the head.
2. Fear of chronic side effects:
A lot of people fear that chemotherapy leaves patients with chronic side effects, which might stay with them forever. This is not true for all patients and all kinds of cancers. Different patients experience varying lengths of side effects – some for weeks and months and some for years. The patient’s cancer care specialist might be able to share information about the long-term and short-term side effects and the tenure of side effects. Some side effects can also be treated with medication or therapy.
3. Fear of chemotherapy being physically painful:
Agreed, chemotherapy is painful. However, patients should know that certain pains caused by chemotherapy could be treated by the medication or by alternative therapies. As per cancer care experts, patients should remember that most often the anxiety of what is going to happen can psychologically heighten the perception of pain. The physical pain caused by chemotherapy doesn’t necessarily have to be as painful as considered to be.
4. Side effects of chemotherapy:
Some of the common side effects of chemotherapy are nausea, hair loss, constipation, anemia, weight loss, fertility problems, kidney problems, and so on. Having said this, patients need to know that:
• Every patient has different levels of side effects. Some patients might experience higher side effects than other patients.
• Certain side effects can be prevented with the help of extra care and medication.
• Some side effects have long term impact whereas some lasts for a shorter tenure.
Medical research and innovation have made it possible for some women to avoid chemotherapy. In India, 95% of cancer patients choose to undergo chemotherapy, whereas a large percentage of them can avoid it. Studies show that chemotherapy can be avoided in 70% early stage HER2 positive breast cancer patients.
Prognostic tests like CanAssist Breast helps the patients to know their breast cancer recurrence risk score and possibly avoid chemotherapy. It makes personalized treatment possible while keeping the costs down in low-risk cases.
Chemotherapy is a tough fight, but constantly telling yourself that you CAN make through it, is the best way to deal with the fear of chemotherapy. Remember, “This Too Shall Pass”!