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Managing Chemotherapy

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you can manage your chemotherapy Monkey Business/Thinkstock

One in three people will experience cancer at some point in their lives. There are more than 200 types of cancer that can affect various parts of the body. About 22,280 people will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer by the end of this year in the United States.

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery are the mainstay orthodox medical treatments offered by oncologists for the treatment of cancer.

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is either a single cytotoxic drug or a combination of cytotoxic drugs. These drugs are poisons that damage cells so that they are unable to divide and reproduce, and they die as a result.

This is why cytotoxic drugs are useful in killing cancer cells. Unfortunately, however, they don’t differentiate between what is a healthy cell and what is cancer so they kill normal cells too. This is why chemotherapy can cause many side effects, some of them serious.

How Long Have Doctors Been Using Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy was discovered accidentally in World War II when German planes bombed some ships at Bari harbor in Italy, and exploded some of the cargo on the ships.

This cargo was mustard gas, which then polluted the surrounding area and made lots of people who lived near the port extremely ill, with skin damage and severe infections. A large number died despite receiving the best hospital care available.

Two American army doctors realized that virtually every patient they treated had a very low white blood cell count. As white blood cells are needed to fight viruses and bacteria, this made them vulnerable to infection.

The American doctors then reasoned that they might be able to use mustard gas to deliberately lower white blood cell count, in order to manage or treat diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma. Both these types of cancer are caused by an overproduction of white blood cells.

So they injected volunteers with small doses of nitrogen mustard and found that they could slow down the progression of their leukemia and control their illness. And so the first anti-cancer chemotherapy was created from a biological warfare agent.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.