Chemotherapy myths: Is there any truth behind these common beliefs?

Chemotherapy myths: Is there any truth behind these common beliefs?

You must have heard of chemotherapy as a potential drug treatment for various types of cancers. It significantly reduces the progression of cancer cells and has long been the mainstay of cancer treatment.

Though it is popular cancer therapy, people are always worried about the various adverse effects of chemotherapy. But, it isn't always as troublesome as you might expect.

Clinical advancements in precision medicine have improved the effectiveness of existing chemotherapy drugs and have introduced new drug therapies with higher efficacy and safety. Despite significant strides in chemotherapy, its public perception hasn't entirely caught up, and misperceptions persist, thus misguiding the patients.

It is crucial to educate people and bust persisting myths from facts. Let us dispel some well-known misconceptions about chemotherapy.

Myth 1: Chemotherapy will always make a person feel sick

Previously, nausea and vomiting used to be the unavoidable adverse effects reported in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Nowadays, this isn’t the case! Patients can now be prescribed medications before chemotherapy to prevent side effects like intense nausea and vomiting.

Also, the severity of side effects can substantially vary and are not the same for everyone. Some people witness few side effects or even none at all.

Myth 2: Chemotherapy drastically disrupts a patient's life

No! Chemotherapy treatment does not disturb an individual's life the way it once did. People believe that the side effects arising out of chemotherapy will cripple their lives forever. However, the dramatic adverse effects that people undergoing chemotherapy witnessed years ago are not at all common nowadays, thanks to medical advances.

Over the years, medical advancements have aided to diminish the adverse impact of chemotherapy on the body. The harmful effects usually disappear shortly after the treatment.

Furthermore, chemotherapy has so remarkably advanced that most cancer people can be managed on an outpatient basis and are rarely admitted to a hospital for an overnight stay. The patients also can receive chemotherapy in a setting that is close to where they live or work.

Myth 3: A person undergoing chemotherapy will always suffer hair loss

When we think about a cancer patient undergoing treatment, a picture of a bald person appears first in mind. Chemotherapy may indeed impair hair follicles, making hair fall out, most often in clumps during washing or combing. Although hair loss is a common distressing side effect of cancer treatment, not every individual experience it.

Also, not every chemotherapy drug results in hair fall. Some drugs only cause mild hair thinning. Hair fall depends on the type of chemotherapy a patient receives and the combination of medications prescribed.

There is a rumour among people that hair loss occurring during chemotherapy is permanent. It is indeed not true. Fortunately, the loss of hair during chemotherapy is temporary most of the time. The hair will grow back once chemotherapy ends.

Over-the-counter medications such as minoxidil can be used for hair growth after chemotherapy. A cooling cap may aid to reduce hair fall. It fits tightly on the head and keeps the scalp cold before, during, and after chemotherapy.

Also, people can now go for targeted medicines such as immunotherapy and hormonal therapy that target only specific cells. With these drugs, no hair loss is usually witnessed.

Myth 4: Chemotherapy is always given via intravenous route that requires a hospital stay

When people think of chemotherapy, they imagine getting an intravenous infusion as part of an extended hospital stay. This common myth should be allayed since the intravenous route is just one way through which chemotherapy drugs are given to treat cancer.

In reality, many chemotherapy drugs today are taken orally (capsules, pills, or liquids to swallow), and some are even taken topically (cream or gel to rub on the skin).

Myth 5: Chemotherapy is a painful treatment

People with cancer have a self-perceived fear that chemotherapy is a painful treatment process. However, the truth is that it is a treatment to offer a pain-free life to people who have cancer. While chemo may cause mild discomfort, it isn't typically painful.

Myth 6: A person will not be able to reproduce after chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may cause some harm to the reproductive organs and glands, thus affecting fertility. However, the novel advances in medical science can now allow people to conceive successfully even after chemotherapy.


It is vital to be aware of how chemotherapy truly works in the battle against cancer. Different chemotherapeutic drugs target different types of cancer. They work in different ways, such as reducing the growth and progression of cancer cells, shrinking tumours before surgery, and mitigating the symptoms of advanced cancer.

It may be combined with other therapies like surgery and radiation therapy. While developing the patients' treatment plans, clinicians consider many factors.

With the breakthrough advancements, chemotherapy has improved remarkably, thus making it more safe, effective, tolerable, and less harmful to the body's healthy cells. Most of the adverse effects are transient and temporary, and recovery occurs with adequate medical support. Chemotherapy can now be used to treat people with little to no interference in their everyday lives.

Also read,Important considerations for cancer in COVID-19 times

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