Most people recognize that anticancer drugs are very poisonous and harmful to the body. So, they are often more scared of chemotherapy than surgery. The problem is that even when chemotherapy is absolutely necessary, the opportunity to fully cure it is missed by refusing adequate chemotherapy. So, this article contains information that can resolve misunderstandings about anticancer drugs through correct information.
How do anticancer drugs cure cancer?
First, let’s see how anticancer drugs treat cancer. There are many ways to treat cancer today. Among them, chemotherapy is to treat cancer by using drugs that inhibit cancer cells, and it is also used in conjunction with other cancer treatments such as radiation, surgery, and interferon. Among cancer treatments, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that attacks cancer cells throughout the body. On the other hand, radiation or surgery is a topical treatment that treats cancer cells in certain parts of the body.
Our body is made up of various types of cells. Each of the normal cells plays their role in their designated locations and eventually dies. However, cancer cells grow abnormally fast and do not die on their own. Then, it eventually penetrates into surrounding tissues and even spreads to other tissues or organs far away.
In fact, the effects of anticancer drugs do not discriminate between normal cells and cancer cells. However, because normal cells are not at an abnormal growth rate, they are less affected by anticancer drugs and can survive. On the other hand, as cancer cells grow abnormally rapidly, they are more affected by anticancer drugs and are eventually destroyed.
There are several types of anticancer drugs. The mechanism of action is also very diverse. Which of these anticancer drugs to use depends on what kind of cancer the patient is, how proliferated, and the nature of the cancer cells. In addition, anticancer drugs can cause severe side effects as they can affect normal cells. Therefore, it should be used only in situations where chemotherapy can be helpful to the patient by carefully considering the patient’s age and health condition.
Can anticancer drugs cure cancer?
One of the biggest concerns among patients who need to start chemotherapy is whether or not chemotherapy can cure cancer. In fact, among patients with anticancer treatment ahead, many fear that anticancer treatment will not cure cancer but only prolong the painful time.
Before answering this, it is necessary to first find out what the goal of chemotherapy is. The goals of anticancer treatment can be classified into three major categories: cure of cancer, control of cancer, and relief of symptoms.
Cancer cure means completely eliminating cancer with anticancer drugs. Unfortunately, this is not the case with all cancers. Some cancers that can be expected to cure with anticancer drugs include hematologic cancer, lymphoma, and some small cell cancers. However, since it is possible to follow the patient’s condition, such as symptoms or stage, there are not many cases that are cured only with anticancer drugs.
On the other hand, cancer control refers to the use of anticancer drugs for the purpose of preventing recurrence after surgery. In this case, chemotherapy is usually performed after a certain period of time. It may take from 3 months to 1 year.
Lastly, anticancer drug treatment is sometimes administered to relieve symptoms. Its main purpose is to extend the survival period of terminal cancer patients who are difficult to cure. In this case, the duration of the chemotherapy treatment is not specified.
However, there is one thing to keep in mind. When exposed to the same anticancer drug continuously, cancer gains resistance to anticancer drugs. Then, the doctor continues the treatment by replacing it with another anticancer drug. However, there are not infinite types of anticancer drugs, so the moment comes when there are no more anticancer drugs available. Then, in fact, the doctor has nothing more to do for the patient.
In this situation, people sometimes misunderstand that “I got worse after taking anticancer drugs.” However, it should be understood that “the survival time has been prolonged thanks to anticancer drugs, but now the cancer is so bad that it can no longer be treated with anticancer drugs.”
And although it is a very rare case, even a patient who had no potential for cure at first may be improved close to cure through chemotherapy. Therefore, it is important to receive chemotherapy without losing hope even for patients diagnosed with difficulty in curing.
Do anticancer drugs have side effects?
Anticancer drugs are drugs that destroy cancer cells, but they can also affect normal cells and lead to various side effects. However, these side effects vary greatly from person to person. It is not present in all patients, and some patients may not experience any side effects. In addition, side effects may differ for each type of anticancer agent to be used, dosage to be administered, and the number of treatments when the same anticancer agent is repeatedly used.
The most common side effects of anticancer drugs are nausea and vomiting. This is because anticancer drugs stimulate specific areas of the brain that cause vomiting. Lower appetite, fatigue, hypersensitivity reactions when injecting anticancer drugs, skin rash, and inflammation around nails and toenails are also side effects that are relatively common depending on the type of anticancer drug. In addition to these relatively common side effects, depending on the anticancer drug, there may be cases of decreased heart or kidney function and lung fibrosis.
Then, will the side effects of anticancer drugs disappear after the treatment with anticancer drugs is completed? Normal cells affected by anticancer drugs usually recover to their original state within 2-3 weeks after treatment with anticancer drugs. Therefore, most of the side effects gradually begin to disappear after treatment is completed, and healthy cells proliferate normally and enter a recovery period within 2-3 weeks. Most of these side effects are temporary, but side effects that occur in the heart, kidneys, lungs, and nervous system can last for several years or permanently.
Of course, these side effects and their recovery appear differently depending on the type of anticancer drug and the patient’s individual health status. If a patient experiences side effects during chemotherapy, do not stop it voluntarily, and seek a solution through close consultation with the doctor in charge.
Today’s article deals with the principles, effects, and side effects of chemotherapy. It is best if the patient does not have to use anticancer drugs, but if there is a situation where they need to be treated with anticancer drugs, do not worry about vague concerns and use them wisely with accurate knowledge.