THE TRUTH ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS

From The Cancer Chronicles #7
©Dec. 1990 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.

THIS IS THE COMPANION PIECE TO THE "CHEMO'S 'BERLIN WALL' CRUUMBLES' ARTICLE. I REVISITED THIS GROUND IN FAR GREATER DETAIL IN MY BOOK QUESTIONING CHEMOTHERAPY--ED.

Most of the 40 or so chemotherapeutic agents cause baldness by producing a weakened hair shaft that breaks off at the scalp. Hair may take years to return to normal.

Nausea and vomiting are common. Many patients get sick just pulling into the hospital parking lot. Such nausea can lead to weakness, weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Other GI effects are infections of the mucous lining, lips, tongue and mouth. Abdominal colic, constipation, diarrhea are all common. Candida (thrush) is found in 13 percent of patients. Doxorubicin causes esophagus inflammation in 50 percent.

Toxic drugs leaking from a needle causes skin necrosis; severe damage to nerves, tendons and muscle can follow. Surgeons treat this by excising the skin, followed by grafts to repair the damage. Radiation recall: skin, trying to heal from radiation burns, reddens and peels again; blisters and oozing follow. 5-FU can even make people burn from normal sunlight.

Busulfan and other drugs cause discoloration of the skin, weakness, inability to eat and weight loss. Doxorubicin causes darkening of fingers and toes. Bleomycin results in weird pigmentation of the trunk. Thiotepa leads to whitening of the eyelids, nail damage, brittleness, loosening and even loss of nail plates.

Most anti-cancer drugs also cause second cancers, especially of the GI tract, ovaries, and lungs. These are nearly impossible to treat. Tumors continue to develop for years. In one study, 17.6 percent of survivors developed unrelated cancer up to 15 years later.

Immune system damage is almost universal. The whole panoply of blood diseases is seen: thrombocytopenia with its loss of white blood cell which guards against infection; severe bone marrow hypoplasia; inability to synthesize fibrinogen; abnormally long bleeding time; granulocytopenia. Resulting infections can be treated with antibiotics, but these can bring their own set of side effects.

Heart damage can occur weeks, months or years after treatment, signalled by rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, distended neck veins, swollen ankles, enlarged liver and heart. Up to 30 percent of high-dose Doxorubicin-recipients develop congestive heart failure.

Over 40 percent of patients experience mouth ulcers, pain and bleeding, which can make eating a torture. Other problems: candida, herpes and viral infections; dry mouth, drooling, painful swallowing. Loss of sensation, muscle pain, weakness and changes in senses and motor skills are common. Methotrexate causes stiff neck, headache, nausea, vomiting, fever and lethargy for up to 72 hours. Paralysis, paraplegia and death have also occurred. Vinblastine and vincristine cause double vision, loss of bladder control, impotence, and paralysis of the bowel wall.

Ear damage and hearing loss are associated with cis-platin, which is being used against testicular, ovarian, cervical, head and neck cancers.

Reproductive organs can be profoundly damaged, resulting in sterility.

BCNU causes pulmonary fibrosis: lungs harden, with dry cough, fever, difficult breathing and cyanosis in 20­30 percent of patients.

CHART: Relatively rare forms of cancer treatable through chemotherapy:

TYPE OF CANCER CURE RATE*

Choriocarcinoma (low-risk patients) 90
Burkitt's Lymphoma (Stage I) 90
Acute lymphocytic leukemia 60
Hodgkin's disease (stage III and IV) 60
Diffuse histiocytic lymphoma 70
Nodular mixed lymphoma 75
Testicular carcinoma (stage II-III) 70-90
Childhood sarcomas (w/ radiation & surgery) 70-90
Childhood lymphomas 75

*Percent long-term disease-free survival. Source: Cecil's Textbook of Medicine (1988)

articles on war on cancer

Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. is director of the The Moss Reports for cancer patients. Dr. Moss is the author of eleven books and three documentaries on cancer-related topics. He is or has been an advisor on alternative cancer treatments to the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Urological Association, Columbia University, the University of Texas, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the German Society of Oncology. He wrote the first article on alternative medicine for the Encyclopedia Britannica yearbook. He is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in Entertainment (as a film documentarian). This Web site does not advocate any particular treatment for cancer. We urge you to always seek competent medical advice for all health problems, especially cancer. Before consulting our site please read our full Disclaimer statement.



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