Chemotherapy is one of the medical treatment procedures used in dealing with tumors. It uses chemicals to fight off the cancer cells. Unfortunately these chemicals also affect other body cells and tissues. If they are not checked, severe complications might occur.
But can chemotherapy really be harmful enough to result death in a patient? In order to analyze this, first we need to understand the harmful effects of chemotherapy. These include both the short and the long term effects.
What are the Short Term Effects of Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy has quite a number of short term side effects. Most of these side effects disappear once the treatment is over but sometimes they keep on coming back resulting in health complications. Some of these effects include:
- Loss of hair- Chemotherapy causes patients to lose their hair as it falls off. The chemo drugs attack the hair follicle cells and loosen the hair to fall off.
- Anemia- Patients who are having chemotherapy may have a reduced amount of red blood cells. This can quickly result in anemia.
- Weakened immunity system- Chemotherapy drugs also attack the bone marrow cells involved in the formation of white blood cells. This reduces the number of WBCs leaving the person open to attacks from opportunistic infections.
- Sores in the mouth and the throat- Chemo drugs are also capable of causing harm to the cells found in the throat and the mouth. This causes the development of sores and they mostly appear a few days after the treatment has begun.
- Pain- Chemotherapy also causes its victims to experience a lot of pain sometimes.
Nearly all short term side effects may have ways or other treatments to deal with unlike the long term effects.
What are the Long Term Effects of Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy can cause quite a number of complications that can be long lasting. Some of these long term effects may include:
- Changes in your thinking and memory capacity
Chemotherapy has been known to interfere with the ability of patients to think, concentrate and remember things.
- Sexual dysfunction
Chemo treatments can affect a person’s sexual function a lot. In men, it can reduce the sperm count while in women it may affect the ovaries. Patients undergoing chemotherapy will also feel fatigued most of the time making them less wanting to engage in sexual activity.
- Complications in the nervous system
Chemotherapy can destroy the nerves and cause nerve damage which could result in an immense pain. It may also interfere with the functioning of the nervous system which can affect a person for a really long time and it may be hard to correct the problem.
- Permanent damage to the liver, lungs or kidneys
Sometimes chemotherapy may affect the functioning of very important organs of the body such as the lungs, liver and the kidneys. It may cause them to stop functioning or develop complications that may hinder them from functioning properly.
- Damage to the heart
Chemotherapy can also interfere with the functioning of the heart and cause problems such as arrhythmia or even a heart attack.
How Would Chemotherapy Really Cause Death?
If chemotherapy was to result in the death of a patient, it would through the health complications it causes later once the treatment has begun. Here is how:
Chemotherapy affects the formation of very important blood cells such as the white blood cells and platelets. When the number of white blood cells is compromised, you can easily get attacked by opportunistic diseases which may lead to death.
Platelets are also important as they help the blood to clot. When the body is no longer able to form enough platelets as a result of chemotherapy, you may face a risk of bleeding out from an injury. If this occurs, then the patient would lose his/her life due to excessive bleeding as a result of chemotherapy.
Another way through which chemotherapy can cause death is by causing heart complications. The heart is a very important and delicate organ. When chemotherapy interferes with its functioning, the patient is at a risk of getting a heart attack or another fatal heart condition which could lead to his/her death.
Development of complications to the liver, the lungs and the kidneys due to chemotherapy can also cause death. Those are three very important organs of the body which carry out major functions. Chemotherapy can affect their functioning and also cause them to develop other health complications which can lead to death.
Chemotherapy can also cause a person to develop secondary cancer in future which can be fatal and could finally lead towards death.
What is the Rate of Death Caused by Chemotherapy?
It is very difficult to determine the exact number or rate of death among the patients who are receiving chemotherapy. This is because most of them who die will be termed as having cancer that was in very late stages and thus could not be treated. Therefore, the average number of deaths caused by chemotherapy is not yet accurately determined.
The Bottom Line
Yes, it is possible that chemotherapy can cause death but it would not do so directly. It would have to bring about another medical complication that would be the cause of death in a patient.
However with the advancement in technology, it is possible for doctors to keep everything in check as the patients undertake chemotherapy to ensure that it does not cause any extreme damage to their body.
Nowadays, most of the side effects can be treated and others simply kept at bay through certain medical procedures. Always ensure to receive constant check-ups and report any development of side effects to your doctor immediately.
- Side effects of chemotherapy
- Long-term complications associated with chemotherapy
- Short-term complications associated with chemotherapy