Cancer is one of the main causes of death worldwide, but new research shows that chemotherapy might be just a big of a killer. Researchers have looked at the number of deaths in the first 30 days of starting chemotherapy, and found out that in one hospital the treatment killed up to 50% of the cancer patients, while in another it was 28%. While the percentage is not as big overall, it’s still an important aspect to keep in mind. The study looked at 23,000 women with breast cancer and 10,000 men with lung cancer who went under chemotherapy in 2014. Out of them, 1,400 died in the first 30 days (Source)
Doctors should be more careful who they choose to treat with chemotherapy, and should also inform the patients of all the side-effects, including the risk of death. It is even mentioned on some chemo drugs that they can actually cause cancer. For example, Doxorubicin may increase the risk of leukemia, while Cyclophosphamide may increase the risk of bladder and ovarian cancer. So even though you might cure the initial cancer, you might develop a second or a third one somewhere else in the body, because of chemotherapy. (Source)
Another study found that the overall contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to the survival over a period of 5 years was just 2.3% in Australia and just 2.1% in the United States. Even the big majority of doctors (88%) would avoid chemotherapy themselves if terminally ill, despite recommending it to patients. (Source)
This is because they are paid good money whenever someone begins chemotherapy, radiation or goes through a surgery. The industry of allopathic treatments is huge (more than $200 billion dollars in the US), so there is no reason to reduce the use of chemotherapy, even though it may do more harm than good.
While some cancers can be treated through surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, these methods do not eliminate the cancer stem cells. These are “the mother cells”, the ones that have the ability to self-renew, to split off and create new tumor colonies. If not eliminated, they can regrow the tumors, coming back stronger and more invasive than before. While chemotherapy does not destroy the cancer stem cells, a compound found in ginger does, without affecting healthy cells in the body. (Source)
Managing Cancer as a Chronic Illness
Even if treated, cancer may not completely go away and it can be a chronic (on-going) disease, just like diabetes. As long as it is controlled with a form of treatment and it doesn’t grow, a person can live a normal and pretty much healthy life. Many forms of cancers can be controlled for months or even years. Detailed tests and close supervision are required. (Source)
The patient should be informed of all the possible methods of treatment and should be informed about the benefits and side effects of each one. Discuss all the aspects with your doctor and family in order to take the best decision. While some cancers can’t be cured completely, you can “buy” more weeks, months or even years through various methods of treatment.
Some people feel better and stronger through cancer treatment, while others end up feeling worse, the side effects outweighing the benefits and preventing them from enjoying the time left. Some forms of treatment may even become inefficient, as the cancer becomes resistant to that treatment. The final decision is yours, but make sure to consult with your family too, as they are going through this battle along with you.
This method of treatment does not treat the cancer itself, but only reduces its symptoms, thus making your life easier and more enjoyable. Palliative care may treat symptoms like pain, nausea, stress, depression or tiredness. Physical therapy and counseling may also be used along with medication.
If all methods fail, if the cancer cannot be controlled anymore or the side effects are outweighing the benefits, hospice care may be the only solution left. The idea behind this is to accept death as the final stage of life and simply enjoy the remaining days in this world. Hospice care may be given at home, in hospitals, nursing homes or hospices and it focuses on giving you a comfortable life.
Living with Cancer
Living with this chronic disease may be difficult, as you do not know what to expect and what will happen next. You won’t be able to get back to your normal life as it was before the disease. But what you can do is to get used with what is normal for you right now. Patients often say that life has a new meaning to them and they see things differently.
Your new “normal life” should include making changes in your diet and lifestyle, and making the treatment a part of your day to day life. Dealing with repeated recurrences may become stressful and discouraging, but being positive and maintaining hope are highly important. Many people have managed to live with cancer for years and a study has shown that mind matters in cancer survival. Scientists concluded that emotional and social support along with stress management have a positive effect on survival. There is even a new discipline called “psycho-oncology” that helps patients to live well with this disease. The mind matters a great deal.
Active steps that you can take in living with cancer are:
- Be informed of what services and treatments are available for you
- Keep in mind that you simply can’t control certain aspects of the disease
- Be aware of your fears and then let them go
- Express your feelings to a family member, a friend or a counselor
- Enjoy the present moment and have fun
- Do the things that you always wanted to do
- Try to have a positive attitude and feel grateful for what you have
- Have a healthy lifestyle and diet
- Exercise and be active
The conception of most people is that when you get cancer you can either be cured or you die. But there are plenty of people like me who have the disease, who are being treated but are not cured nor dead. We simply live with cancer. And some people can live with it for many years, enjoying quality moments with their loved ones.
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