Chemotherapy (or chemo) is a common cancer treatment. The treatment works by using drugs to destroy cancer cells in order to cease or slow the cancer from spreading throughout the body. While chemo is not usually known to cure cancer, it can control the spread of cancer cells and ease symptoms in patients. The only time when this treatment can possibly cure someone of cancer is when the cells in the body are destroyed to the point where they are no longer detected and will not grow back.
Many patients who have undergone chemotherapy have been known to experience side effects, such as hair loss, which occurs as a result of healthy cells being damaged through this treatment. This is one of the downfalls of chemo.
For this reason – and due to other side effects caused by chemo – it is best to consult with your oncologist before undergoing any chemo treatments. The following is a list of suggested questions to consider asking in order to be better informed about what chemotherapy is and does. By engaging in this conversation, you’ll be able to be more in control of your treatment and your body.
Questions to Ask Prior to Your Chemotherapy Treatment
- What is the goal of the chemo for my cancer? Is this a cure?
The term “cure” doesn’t usually appear in a doctor’s vocabulary. They prefer to use words like “remission” or they’ll mention 5 or 10-year survival rates. It’s important to clarify your expectations, as well as be clear on what you can expect coming out of the treatment.
- How effective is chemotherapy? What are the chances that this treatment will work for me and my cancer?
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Studies have been done, which point to the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy. Sometimes, this treatment is most effective or necessary when the goal is to reduce the size of a tumor. This may not be your goal, so it’s important to ensure you have a complete understanding of the benefits as well as the risks of this treatment.
Will the treatment make me susceptible to future cancers?
Find out if the chemo will kill the cancer that is there and leave you vulnerable to more cancer. Because of the weakening of the immune system, it’s possible for cancer stem cells can go on to create more cancer and oncologists don’t always share this bit of information.
- After the chemo will I be cured, in remission, or do you anticipate I will need further treatment?
Be very specific when you ask your questions so that you know exactly what to expect.
- What exactly will the treatment consist of?
In being specific, find out what type of treatment you will be receiving and whether it will need to be combined with other cancer treatments, like radiation therapy, surgery or hypothermia therapy.
- What are my other options if I decline treatment? Are there other ways of reaching the same goal?
By asking this, you can learn about other available alternative therapies. In addition, it’s always good to have options as each person’s experience is different and your reaction to the treatment may be different from others’.
- How long will the treatment last and how many treatments will I have?
- Will I need to make any changes to my diet, activities, work or other aspects of my lifestyle in preparation for the treatment?
- How will you nourish and protect my healthy cells while you’re destroying my cancer cells?
- What will your proposed chemotherapy treatment do to my cancer stem cells?
How will you support my immune system during treatment?
Chemotherapy damages the immune system so you should find out how they plan on protecting it.
What will you do if I become resistant to chemo treatment?
This is a question not many people think to ask. Prepare yourself with a backup plan.
- Would you allow your spouse or children to undergo the same chemotherapy treatment? Would you take it yourself?
Asking this question will definitely give you some insight into the safety and validity of this treatment. It’s always good to turn the situation around on the other person when seeking their advice in order to give you a different perspective or to assure you of your own.
- What should I do AFTER the treatment to detox from the chemotherapy?
The effects of the drugs used during chemotherapy are strong so it’s important to know how to properly treat and care for your body after the treatment.
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