Cancer patients are often treated with chemotherapy along with other kinds of treatment in the hope that the combination will be more efficient. Chemotherapy means chemical treatment and is not a new treatment for some diseases, but became popular for the treatment of cancer in the 1940s. Over the decades, many different drugs have been tried to directly kill the cancer cells.
What Drugs Are Used?
There are more than 100 different drugs used to treat cancer with chemotherapy and much more under development. Some of these drugs are hormone therapy, biologic response modifiers, and monoclonal antibodies. Each works differently. There are many different types of cancer, and even the same kind may act differently in different people. Some of the purposes for chemotherapy are:
• To target and cure a particular cancer
• To control tumor growth when a cure is not possible
• To shrink tumors before radiation therapy or surgery
• To relieve some symptoms such as pain
• To destroy left over microscopic cancer cells after the tumor was removed by surgery. This is called adjuvant therapy and is given to prevent a reoccurrence of the cancer cells
There are several methods for delivering the chemicals to cancer. The most common are through an IV, but an injection, liquid, pill or cream can also be used. Treatment can last from several days to several months.
Are There Side Effects?
Patients who need chemotherapy for cancer treatment will most likely experience side effects from the drugs. There are both short-term and long-term side effects, but each patient will not experience every possible side effect. It will depend on the drug and the place of cancer. In general, chemotherapy attacks constantly dividing cells, and, even in a healthy person, these can be found in the hair, skin, bone marrow, intestines and mouth. Each type of side effect will have a remedy. For example, Anemia or low hemoglobin will make the patient tired. They can rest a lot, eat adequate protein and vitamins, drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids and ask for help from others.
The side effects a patient will have will depend on how long the patient has been taking the chemotherapy, their overall health, the dose of the drug, the method of delivery of the drug and any other medicines that are combined with the chemotherapy. Some common side effects are:
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Hair loss
• Nausea and vomiting
• Fluid retention
• Changes in the skin, nails, nerves, mouth, throat and memory
Negligent Cancer Treatment
Doctors, nurses and other technicians who perform the chemotherapy treatment sometimes make errors. This can cause serious problems to compound the already suffering patient’s pain and discomfort. If these errors are caused by negligence on the part of the caregiver, the patient has the right to sue for medical malpractice. Some of the standard errors are caused by:
• Improperly labeled or packaged medication
• The incorrect dose was given
• Not properly monitoring the patient
• The staff not communicating properly
• The wrong prescription was given
• The wrong medication was given
The Results of Negligence
Fortunately, healthcare providers are well aware of the consequences for the patient if a mistake is made. They do their best to properly communicate with each other, keep correct records and give an accurate diagnosis, so the right drug is given.
If a healthcare provider makes mistakes when administering chemotherapy, the consequences for the patient can be severe and even deadly. Mistakes can be compounded by time if they are not quickly discovered. If this happens to a patient, they can contact an experienced lawyer and receive compensation for the negligence.