Chemotherapy Complications
Chemotherapy side effects
   Chemotherapy Complications | Tumor Treatment


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Chemotherapy Complications



Chemotherapy is one of the few, efficient treatment options for a cancer patient. Properly-executed chemotherapy is known to improve a cancer patient's condition remarkably. However, chemotherapy involves using some very strong drugs and these often harm the normal or non-cancerous cells. It should be understood that there are no strict guidelines that explain the realm of chemotherapy complications. Most of these complications are subjective and totally individualistic in terms of the imminent danger they present.



Common Chemotherapy Complications include:

1. Toxicity of Kidney

The kidney is among the first organs of the body that tends to react to the increased levels of strong drugs in the body. Toxicity of the drugs can cause short-term or sustained damage to the kidney. Some drugs might show a few initial, adverse effects but these tend to get resolved without medical intervention. One of the easiest ways to avoid such complications is to test the patient for pre-existing kidney problems and testing him for various drugs that are planned as a part of the chemotherapy regimen. Such tests are easy-to-conduct, usually involving blood and urine samples, and can provide decisive indications towards susceptibility of the kidneys to certain medications. Many times, the raised toxicity of kidneys is resolved through simple procedures such as repeated hydration of the patient to flush-out the harmful toxins. Further, there are some counteractive drugs that can be administered prior to the chemotherapy session. The most severe complication is kidney failure that usually happens if the patient is extremely susceptible to any particular chemo-drug or his immune system is already in a compromised state. This is why some specialists insist upon performing routine Kidney Function Tests for chemo-patients to identify any underlying kidney-related problem. Initial signs of raised toxin levels in the kidney include extreme weakness, bouts of violent coughing and irregular heartbeat. Kidney dialysis is needed only when kidney failure is diagnosed or when the chemotherapy cannot be stopped as it is deemed vital to save the patient's life.

2. Cardiac damage/toxicity

There are some chemotherapy drugs like Adriamycin and Daunorubicin that can damage the heart muscles. While the adverse effect of these two medications is severe, some other smaller (cardiac) symptoms are often precipitated that can be reversed with supplementary medication. This includes complaints of palpitations or increased heart-beat. Cardiac toxicity occurs when the body is unable to filter-away the drug in the required manner and it is retained in the bloodstream for an abnormally long time. This is why many chemo-drugs are often tested for their reaction on the patient and their compliance with any kind of medication that is being taken for existing cardiac problems. Often testing is done periodically to assess the patient's reaction to chemo-drugs, i.e. from a cardiac perspective. One such test is MUGA scanning. Patients who have a prior, individual or family, history of heart diseases should discuss the possible side-effects of chemo-drugs before beginning chemotherapy. In some cases, an ultrasound is needed if the patient is showing signs of acute, periodic cardiac symptoms when undergoing chemotherapy.
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