Diagnosis: Cancer

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"For those people who look at my case as an example, I would just like to say one thing: If you ever get a second chance in life for something, go all the way!" -- Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France finish line

Myths About Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy drugs are medicines that kill cancer cells. Years ago, in their early development, they were harsh and difficult to tolerate. Improvements have been made and side effects are better managed. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Oncology Nursing Society found that people who are newly diagnosed with cancer fear chemotherapy and side effects as much as their own death.xvii And yet chemotherapy can and does save lives.

Chemotherapy drugs have been used more and more over the years--today they are used to treat 50 percent of people who are newly diagnosed with cancer.xviii Cancer survival
rates are higher than ever before.xix

If you are one of the people who cringes at the thought of chemotherapy, read on. Here are some myths and facts you should know:

Myth

The treatment is worse than the disease.

Fact

Chemotherapy drugs have never been safer. New chemotherapy drugs with fewer side effects have been developed, reducing the number and severity of side effects. Researchers are also exploring new ways to give chemotherapy to decrease harmful side effects. Also, better medications are available to lessen symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue and risk of infection. It is important to remember that every person reacts differently to drugs and not all chemotherapeutic agents have the same side effects.

Myth

Chemotherapy is the last line of defense for cancer.

Fact

Chemotherapy is often the leading option in a treatment plan, not a last resort. Chemotherapy circulates throughout the body and is used alone or along with surgery and/or radiation therapy. The treatment is used to cure some kinds of cancer and keep other types of cancer from spreading. It also is used to reduce the size of tumors prior to surgery or as an adjuvant therapy following surgery.

Myth

Life goes on hold while on chemotherapy.

Fact

Cancer patients learn quickly that every day is worth living to its fullest. Depending on a patient's tolerance level, chemotherapy may impact physical activities and emotional states. But staying active and positive is important - and is made easier with the proper diet, medication if necessary, and support from family and friends. Keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to chemotherapy, and once treatment is complete, healthy cells begin to grow normally and side effects disappear.

Myth

Hospital stays are necessary to administer chemotherapy.

Fact

Chemotherapy is administered in different ways, depending on which drugs are being taken, possible side effects, the hospital's policies, and the doctor's preferences. While some doctors may want to evaluate a patient's initial reactions to chemotherapy during a brief hospital stay, many patients can receive their treatments at home, at their doctor's office, or at an outpatient center.