Cancer treatment is often viewed as a beacon of hope, a powerful tool that can potentially vanquish the relentless enemy within. While advancements in medical science have undoubtedly improved cancer treatment outcomes, it is crucial to acknowledge the health risks that can accompany these interventions.
The World Health Organization warns that the burden of cancer is growing globally. By the time it’s 2050, over 35 million new cancer cases might be seen worldwide. That’s a 77 percent increase from the estimated 20 million cancer cases in 2022.
As per the American Cancer Society, in 2023, around 1.9 million new cancer cases were projected to occur in the US. In 2024, this number is sure to shoot upwards. As if dealing with cancer alone wasn’t enough, people now have to be aware of the risks associated with cancer treatments.
From chemotherapy and radiation therapy to surgery and immunotherapy, each modality has its own set of potential pitfalls that demand attention. In this exploration, we delve into some significant health risks associated with cancer treatment.
#1 Impaired Immune Function
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy may inadvertently affect healthy cells, including those of the immune system. Chemotherapy, in particular, can lead to a decline in white blood cell count, compromising the body’s ability to fight infections. This susceptibility to infections can persist long after treatment completion, necessitating vigilant monitoring and preventive measures.
Moreover, immunotherapy, a promising avenue in cancer treatment, may cause immune-related adverse events. These range from mild skin reactions to more severe conditions like autoimmune disorders. This emphasizes the delicate balance between boosting and potentially over-activating the immune system.
#2 Cardiovascular Complications
Chemotherapy drugs, especially anthracyclines like doxorubicin, can exert toxic effects on the heart muscles, leading to conditions such as cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Radiation therapy, particularly when directed toward the chest area, may damage the blood vessels and heart tissue. This, in turn, elevates the chances of coronary artery disease and cardiac events.
These cardiovascular complications not only pose a threat during treatment. They may manifest years after the completion of therapy, underscoring the importance of long-term cardiac monitoring for cancer survivors.
According to the American Heart Association, in the US, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. As cancer drugs seem to intensify heart problems, this nationwide rate of heart attacks might go up.
#3 Cognitive Impairment (Chemo Brain)
The term “chemo brain” has become a familiar descriptor for the cognitive challenges that some cancer survivors experience during and after treatment. Chemotherapy, known for its systemic effects, can impact cognitive function, leading to difficulties in concentration, memory lapses, and decreased mental clarity.
The exact mechanisms underlying the chemo brain are still under investigation. However, it is believed that the treatment-induced inflammation and oxidative stress may contribute to these cognitive changes.
Aside from cognitive impairment, some cancer treatment or chemotherapy drugs can also lead to permanent hair loss and eye injuries. According to Tru Lawsuit Info, Taxotere – a chemotherapy drug – was found to cause these exact problems. Used primarily in breast cancer treatment, Taxotere usage led to hair loss problems and eye injuries in many. Because of this, the Taxotere vision damage lawsuits were filed against the drug’s manufacturers.
As per the Taxotere lawsuit, the drug’s manufacturers failed to adequately warn patients about these potential risks. Thus, the Taxotere vision impairment and hair loss lawsuits were filed. However, despite over 10,000 legal claims filed against them, the manufacturers are yet to offer settlements to the Taxotere victims.
#4 Bone Health Deterioration
Cancer treatments, particularly hormonal therapies and certain types of chemotherapy, can have profound effects on bone health. Hormonal therapies, often used in breast and prostate cancer treatment, may accelerate bone loss and increase the risk of fractures. Additionally, chemotherapy drugs like corticosteroids can further contribute to bone density reduction.
The repercussions of compromised bone health extend beyond the immediate treatment phase, posing a long-term threat to the overall well-being of cancer survivors. Addressing bone health through adequate nutrition, exercise, and targeted interventions is essential to mitigate these risks for individuals navigating the aftermath of cancer treatment.
#5 Psychological Impact
The psychological impact of cancer treatment is multifaceted, encompassing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The journey through cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship can be emotionally draining, leaving lasting imprints on individuals and their loved ones. Coping with the uncertainties and the changes in body image and self-esteem requires a holistic approach that integrates psychological support into cancer care.
In conclusion, cancer treatment stands as a beacon of hope in the fight against this formidable adversary. However, it is imperative to confront the shadows that accompany these interventions.
Acknowledging the health risks associated with cancer treatment is not meant to discourage its pursuit. Rather, its purpose is to illuminate the path for informed decision-making and comprehensive care.