Originally published November 15 2007
Chemotherapy Effective Against Cancer, but at What Cost?
by Julie Reed
(NaturalNews) On October 20th 2007, CNN.com featured an article describing the threat of future heart disease affecting women who had undergone chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer (http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/10/19/hfh.breast.cancer.heart/index.html?iref=newssearch). Unfortunately, it is not just chemotherapy for breast cancer patients that is linked to both immediate and long term health issues for patients. Chemotherapy is often a very effective treatment for cancer but can generate a host of other problems over the course of treatment and beyond.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the immediate side effects experienced during chemotherapy include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, and pain. The government organization acknowledges that long term effects of chemotherapy can range from kidney and lung damage, infertility, and shockingly even a secondary cancer years after the initial treatment (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/chemotherapy-and-you/page5). A research article published March 20, 2007 in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention entitled "Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Secondary to Cancer Chemotherapy" states that the aggressive chemotherapy credited with prolonging the lives of non-hodgkin lymphoma patients is directly linked to a number of those patients later developing acute myeloid leukemia (http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/16/3/377). Therefore, a powerful cycle of chemotherapy eradicates the original cancer, only to lead directly to the onset of a different kind of cancer several years later.
The same chemotherapy treatment referenced in the CNN article as a potential cause of heart disease is also known to cause secondary cancer. The American Cancer Society notes that Doxorubicin is so toxic that it will actually cause skin burns if it leaks from a vein during administration. Another chemotherapy drug, Cisplatin, can cause deafness and permanent kidney damage (http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_1_4X_What_Are_The_Side_Effects_of_Chemotherapy.asp?sitearea=ETO). Imagine being cured of cancer only to discover that a lifetime of dialysis for dysfunctional kidneys is the price, or that beating cancer comes at the cost of one's hearing. While these side effects are purported to be rare, they are extreme and troubling.
Beyond the known long term effects of chemotherapy are the new connections being made to less obvious problems such as the susceptibility to heart disease. Chemotherapy is by nature extremely toxic. The drugs make cancer patients ill during treatment and are known to lead to a host of health problems. The fact is that the true depth of how chemotherapy negatively affects cancer patients over the course of their lives is unknown. Dr. Pamela S. Douglas, M.D., chief of cardiology at Duke University and co-author of the study cited in the CNN article told CNN reporter Linda Saether that, "We always felt the benefit of savings lives outweighed the risks and were just part of the accepted cost" (http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/10/19/hfh.breast.cancer.heart/index.html?iref=newssearch). That view is changing now that more people are surviving after cancer treatment. Douglas cautions doctors to begin taking the "long view" when treating patients, focusing on life-long health while also taking the necessary steps to eradicate the threat of cancer.
About the authorJulie Reed is a freelance writer and editor in central Ohio. Julie is currently at work on a memoir entitled "My Friend Andy". http://myfriendandy.blogspot.com/
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