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Chemotherapy Side Effects - Are You Aware Of Them?

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, DM - Oncology, MD - General Medicine
Oncologist, Nashik  •  17years experience
Chemotherapy Side Effects - Are You Aware Of Them?

With cancer incidence on the rise, more and more people are receiving chemotherapy. This is, however, not without its set of side effects. These side effects have a bearing on both the physical as well as the emotional health of the patient. There were some reasons due to which chemotherapy side effects were often ignored.

Cancer assumes a bigger disease condition, and so side effects of chemotherapy (or anything else for that matter) assumes a much smaller role. Discussions always revolve around how the situation of the cancer is, and chemotherapy assumes a less role.

  1. The patient thinks that it was the expected response to the chemotherapy.
  2. They also assume that there might be no cure for that side effect.

All these necessitated the need for a systematic assessment tool. This has multiple benefits as below.

  1. It gives a structured framework for the doctor and the patient so that no points are missed during the discussion.
  2. It gives a guideline for the patient to look for chemotherapy side effects.
  3. It improves confidence, as the patient known what to expect from the chemotherapy.
  4. Overall patient outcomes can be improved

The Chemotherapy Symptom Assessment Scale (C-SAS) contains a checklist that contains symptoms which arise only out of chemotherapy treatment.

  1. It was introduced in 2002 and includes not just physical problems but also psychological and sexual issues.
  2. Developed with extensive inputs from both the patient and the doctor community, it has 24 questions. There is also a section for reporting of spontaneous symptoms.
  3. The patient records his symptoms on a regular basis, and this becomes a basis for discussion with the doctor at his next visit. It captures incidence, severity, and also how bothersome it is to the patient.
  4. There is also a section for nurses to include their comments, so the response to treatment to these symptoms is recorded.

Objectives: The C-SAS tool aims to:

  1. Improve reporting of symptoms pertaining to chemotherapy
  2. Help the patient understand the response to chemotherapy
  3. Help the medical fraternity understand the drug behavior
  4. Provide a structured framework for the doctor and patient discussions
  5. Collect more side effects for a particular chemotherapy regimen
  6. Improve overall quality of care

Challenges: Though the C-SAS is quite useful, there are still challenges to it, as below.

  1. Encouraging patients to use it. In many cases, the patients feel uncertain if a symptom is due to chemotherapy or part of cancer.
  2. Ensuring that the staff use it, not just to collect the symptoms but review and treat the symptoms.
  3. Getting some insights out of it, to get a holistic view of patient health.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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