Myths of Chemotherapy Debunked
In Singapore, around 72 people a day were screened and diagnosed with cancer in 2018. Undergoing regular cancer screening tests in Singapore will help you detect abnormal growths early and reduce the risk of proliferation of cancer cells. Once a cancer diagnosis is passed, the next step for these patients is to get treated immediately, with chemotherapy (chemo) as one of the primary cancer treatments, together with surgery and radiotherapy.
The three main goals of chemo are for the purposes of Cure (cancer is destroyed), Control (shrink tumours and/or stop cancer growth and spread) or Palliation (ease symptoms caused by cancer). Chemotherapy uses drugs with powerful chemicals to eliminate cancer cells. This makes it a commonly used treatment for cancer patients since cancer cells can quickly grow and multiply.
While chemotherapy is a popular treatment for cancer, there are also common misconceptions that some people may not know about. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of how chemotherapy truly works. Here are a few myths about chemotherapy.
MYTH NO. 1. It Will Cause Baldness
While hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy due to damage to rapidly growing cells in hair follicles, the severity varies greatly from person to person. Going through chemotherapy doesn’t automatically mean you’ll go bald. It depends on the type of chemotherapy and the combinations of drugs.
Sometimes patients can take medicines that only target specific cells to avoid hair loss. Fortunately, hair loss from chemotherapy is short-term and temporary most of the time. You may expect to regrow your hair three to six months after your treatment ends, although your hair may temporarily be a different shade or texture.
MYTH NO. 2. It Will Make You Feel Sick
Vomiting and nausea used to be unavoidable side effects of chemotherapy. Nowadays, this isn’t the case, as patients can now be prescribed medicines to help prevent these side effects before they happen. However, there might still be side effects of chemotherapy, including appetite changes and fatigue.
MYTH NO. 3. It Will Cause Infertility
Although cancer treatment such as chemotherapy may harm reproductive organs and glands that control fertility, there are now fertility preservation options for boys and men as well as girls and women. For boys and men, these options include sperm banking and testicular sperm extraction. For girls and women, options include egg, embryo, and ovarian tissue freezing, among others. Your doctor and a fertility specialist will work together to develop a cancer treatment plan that includes fertility preservation, whenever possible.
MYTH NO. 4. There’s Only One Type Of Chemotherapy
It is important to understand that chemotherapy refers to the use of any drug to treat any disease. Although it is true that in the past that standard chemo was the only kind of drug that could treat cancer, there are now a lot of different kinds of drugs used to treat cancer. These include targeted therapy, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy.
MYTH NO. 5. It will take up a lot of time
Undergoing chemotherapy only requires a small portion of your time, though it ultimately depends on the length and frequency of the patient’s treatment plan. Some patients can undergo the treatment in half an hour, while others need to invest in a few hours or so.
The time it takes for chemotherapy will depend on the cycle, drugs, and frequency prescribed by the doctor.
It’s important to be aware of these myths so that patients won’t be afraid to undergo chemotherapy. Let others know so they can be aware as well.
Visit our cancer management centre in Singapore if you have any concerns about your risk of cancer. Our Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist and team of oncology specialists will be glad to be of assistance.