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
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)
| Burkitt's Lymphoma (Stage I)
| Acute lymphocytic leukemia
| Hodgkin's disease (stage III and IV)
| Diffuse histiocytic lymphoma
| Nodular mixed lymphoma
| Testicular carcinoma (stage II-III)
| Childhood sarcomas (w/ radiation & surgery)
| Childhood lymphomas
*Percent long-term disease-free survival. Source: Cecil's Textbook of
articles on war on cancer
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