The diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing event that can send shockwaves through a person’s life and their loved ones. Thankfully, advancements in medical science have given rise to various cancer treatment options, each designed to tackle the disease with unique approaches. While these treatments offer hope for remission and improved quality of life, they often come with their share of side effects.
In this article, we will delve into the world of cancer treatment options and explore the potential side effects associated with each.
Surgery stands as the frontline defense against cancer when the tumor is confined to a localized area and hasn’t metastasized to other parts of the body. In fact, about 60% of cancer patients will undergo surgical procedures, either as their primary or sole treatment method, with some cases benefiting from surgery alone for effective management.
Though surgery is considered a more direct and targeted approach, it does come with potential side effects. Patients may experience post-operative pain and discomfort at the incision site, and there is a risk of infection and bleeding.
Additionally, due to the delicate nature of some surgeries, there is a possibility of damage to nearby organs or nerves, which can lead to temporary or even permanent physical limitations, depending on the extent of the procedure.
Chemotherapy is a strong cancer treatment that targets and destroys cancer cells in the body. While it is effective, it can also harm healthy cells that grow quickly, leading to various side effects. Common ones include feeling nauseous, vomiting, losing hair, feeling tired, and being more prone to infections due to a weaker immune system.
In the United States, around 650,000 cancer patients receive chemotherapy each year. Nausea and vomiting affect about 70-80% of these patients, and hair loss occurs in nearly 65-90% of cases, depending on the drugs used.
Recently, there have been concerns about vision problems and eye injuries related to a chemotherapy drug called Taxotere. Some patients experienced issues like excessive tearing, cystoid macular edema (CME), and optic neuropathy, as reported in a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology. This situation has led to a surge in Taxotere eye injury lawsuit cases.
As of May 2023, 197 eye injury lawsuits have been filed in Louisiana federal court. The lawsuits claim that the drug’s manufacturer, Sanofi-Adventis, didn’t properly warn doctors and patients about the risk of permanent eye damage, even though they were aware of it for years.
According to TorHoerman Law, the prescribing label for Taxotere also allegedly lacks adequate warnings about potential vision-related side effects, and patients with these side effects weren’t advised to seek immediate treatment to prevent permanent eye damage.
Radiation therapy is a targeted cancer treatment that utilizes high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells, effectively shrinking tumors and impeding their growth. However, despite its precision, it can still impact nearby healthy tissues. One of the most common side effects of cancer radiotherapy is radiation dermatitis, affecting over 90 percent of patients undergoing this treatment.
Another side effect is fatigue, a state characterized by extreme physical, emotional, and mental tiredness, even when patients get enough rest and sleep. Fatigue can become more pronounced when multiple treatment types, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, are combined.
Additionally, if radiation therapy is directed at the head or neck region, it may lead to difficulty swallowing. In the long term, radiation therapy could cause scarring and fibrosis in the treated area.
Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment by utilizing the body’s own immune system to target and combat cancer cells. While it has demonstrated remarkable success in certain cases, it also carries the risk of immune-related side effects, referred to as “immune-related adverse events” (irAEs).
According to a study published in the JAMA Network, the cumulative incidence of autoimmune-related adverse events within 6 months after receiving Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (ICIs) was 13.7%, whereas for other immune-related adverse events, it was 46.8%.
These side effects may manifest as skin rashes, diarrhea, thyroid dysfunction, and, more rarely, inflammation of organs like the lungs or liver. Early recognition and effective management of irAEs are crucial in order to prevent serious complications.
Targeted therapy drugs are designed to specifically target molecules involved in cancer growth and progression, making them less harmful to healthy cells compared to traditional chemotherapy. However, they are not entirely free from side effects.
Studies show that a considerable proportion of patients, ranging from 75% to 90%, experience dermatologic adverse events when treated with targeted therapies. Additionally, GI toxicities, particularly diarrhea, affect a significant number of patients, with percentages ranging from 50% to 80%.
To manage these side effects effectively, regular monitoring during targeted therapy is crucial, ensuring timely intervention when needed.
Cancer treatment is a complex journey, and the decision regarding which approach to take often involves weighing potential benefits against possible side effects. Each individual responds differently to treatments, and side effects can vary in severity from person to person.
As medical research continues to advance, efforts to minimize side effects and improve treatment efficacy are ongoing. For anyone facing cancer, open communication with their healthcare team is crucial to understanding the treatment options available, the associated side effects, and the best ways to manage and cope with them.
Additionally, seeking support from loved ones and engaging in a healthy lifestyle can contribute to a more positive treatment experience. Remember, every step counts in the fight against cancer, and you are not alone on this journey.