Chemotherapy Side Effects
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
FEBRUARY 02, 2017
The experience of receiving chemotherapy is certainly better than it was thirty years ago, but there clearly is still plenty of room for improvement. When I began at BIDMC (then Beth Israel Hospital) in 1979, we routinely handed people those small pink plastic emesis basins as they headed out of the Infusion Area. We knew that many would not get to their cars before the vomiting began.
Now some people never vomit over the months of chemotherapy although they may well still feel nauseated and generally unwell. The anti-nausea medications work, but they are not perfect. And then there are the many other side effects from treatment: hair loss, fatigue, constipation or diarrhea, muscle and joint aches and pains, headaches, etc.
This is a quite discouraging article from HealthDay about a study from the University of Michigan that found that more than half of the women treated for early stage breast cancer experienced side effects that they called "severe". I am quite certain this is not unique for breast cancer therapy.
Here is the start and a link to read more:
Half Report Severe Side Effects From Breast Cancer Therapy
About half of early stage breast cancer patients experience severe side effects from their treatment, a new study finds.
"It's in patients' best interest to receive their treatments on time and on schedule, whenever possible, to give them the best possible outcome," said study author Dr. Steven Katz. He's professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan.
"Unscheduled care for toxicities [side effects] -- including clinic visits, emergency department visits and hospital stays -- are expensive, inconvenient and disruptive to both doctors and patients. We need to avoid them whenever possible," Katz said in a university news release.
For the study, researchers surveyed almost 2,000 early stage breast cancer patients an average of seven months after diagnosis. The women were asked to rate the severity of seven common treatment side effects: nausea/vomiting; diarrhea; constipation; pain; arm swelling; shortness of breath; and breast skin irritation.
The results showed that 93 percent of the women had at least one of the side effects. About 45 percent said their side effects were severe or very severe. Pain, skin irritation and constipation were the side effects most often reported as severe or very severe.