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Chemotherapy sounds like a frightening procedure. You’re bound to have heard all sorts of negative stories about it. But do you really know all of the facts? Only by understanding what chemotherapy really does to your body and how it combats cancer will you be able to decide whether or not it is the correct treatment for you.

Chemotherapy refers to any type of therapy that uses chemicals to kill or halt the growth of cancer cells. The drugs used work in a variety of ways but they are all based on the same principle: stop the cells from dividing and you stop the growth and spread of the cancer.

The reason many people are so fearful of chemotherapy is that until recently it was only used to relieve symptoms associated with very advanced or metastatic cancer. It was rarely used in the early stages of the disease. However, in 2004, it was discovered that chemotherapy using Taxotere could prolong the lives of men with prostate cancer that no longer responded to hormone therapy. Following this finding, more and more doctors are being converted to the potential offered by chemotherapy.

In fact, so excited are the medical profession about these possibilities that there are now lots of clinical trials studying various combinations of chemotherapy drugs. Some of these are aiming to find a chemotherapy regimen that is more tolerable/more effective than the current standard being used for men with metastatic cancer. Others are looking to find a regimen that will delay the onset of metastasis and still more are seeking to improve the results of the current standard by mixing it with new agents.

Like all cancer treatments and especially cancer trials, the primary aim of researchers is to find a way of maximizing the benefits of the therapy while minimizing side effects. Chemotherapy is similar to all other powerful drugs in that it can cause severe side effects. You are bound to have heard stories about the impact it has had on other patients. You too are sure to suffer from some of these effects.

It is impossible to predict what these might be. Because everyone is different and because we all react differently to drugs, no two people will react to the same drugs in the same way.

As a result, you should pay close attention to how the drugs make you feel. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists will also be on the lookout for adverse reactions but you may experience something unexpected. If you do, be sure to tell them immediately. An unexplained side effect may not be a cause for worry but it is better to be cautious than to ignore something that might cause harm and damage in the long term.

Some people undergoing chemotherapy feel an obligation to suffer in silence. After all, chemotherapy is supposed to be uncomfortable, isn’t it? This is not the correct approach to follow. There are many different drugs available today which help to ward off or treat the different side effects.

Some tackle the nausea or vomiting that is often associated with chemotherapy. Others help with sleep problems and exhaustion. You should take them. You will be better able to fight off the cancer if your body is rested and relaxed.

Many doctors will go so far as to say that relaxation is key to recovery. Chemotherapy drugs are very powerful and they can take a strong toll on the body. If you can focus on finding a way to relax – by listening to music, watching movies, going for a walk by the sea – you will be contributing to your overall wellbeing. This will allow your body to focus on the main task at hand; getting back to optimum health.

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