Chemotherapy (Continued)…

During rest periods referred to in the previous blog, it is often possible to (and highly recommended that you should) live a fairly normal life and even, where feasible, continue to pursue one’s daily occupation.  Obviously there may be a need to reduce and curtail certain activities due to tiredness and feelings of fatigue where applicable, especially toward evening time. In this regard, what was said about the need for rest etc. where radiotherapy is being received, applies equally here. It is usually perfectly possible to continue with planning for holidays or weekends away from home and where safe and feasible, treatment times may be adjusted to accommodate this.  However, it is very important to consult your chemotherapy doctor and member(s) of his/her support staff well in advance and to continue to regard this as an integral part of your own planning for the duration of treatment.

We have already seen how it is that radiotherapy does not discriminate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cells and the same also applies to many chemotherapy drugs, of which there are in total, as many as 50 to 60. It is also known that many chemotherapeutic agents can and do damage normal, as well as cancerous cells. On the face of things, damage to a few thousand good and healthy cells may sound somewhat drastic and even alarming.  However, when one considers the regular ongoing turnover of cells in the billions, it becomes possible to achieve more of a ‘drop in the ocean’ perspective. Do also remember what we have already said about normal cells being quickly replaced. Thus where damage is sustained, it is likely only to be temporary, with noxious side effects swiftly disappearing altogether once treatment is over.

Perhaps I might just mention here that there are definite limits to what can be achieved in the treatment of cancer with drugs. Indeed, whilst it is the case that certain cancers are highly responsive to some agents, others are more resistant and therefore difficult to treat.  Once again, drug resistance and the manner in which tumour cells adapt to host conditions are outwith the scope and competency of these blog posts, other than to emphasize what happily is becoming more and more widely known: namely that improvements resulting from better understanding of and insight into the admittedly complex mechanisms of resistance gives genuine grounds for future hope and optimism.

One other important and increasingly important form of chemotherapy is known as “hormone therapy” (hormones are chemical messengers produced by the endocrine glands and include the ovaries in women and testes in men. In both sexes the adrenal glands are situated on top of the kidneys; the thyroid is in the neck region and the pituitary gland at the base of the brain). Specific hormones influence the cellular growth in certain organs of the body.  It is oestrogen (the female hormone) that stimulates the growth of the duct system within the female breast, whilst the withdrawal of androgens, i.e. male hormones, will cause the prostate tissues to shrink in men.

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