Some doctors unaware of long-term side effects of cancer care
May 19th, 2012
06:58 AM ET

Some doctors unaware of long-term side effects of cancer care

Doctors need to be better educated about the significant long-term side effects of chemotherapy that may affect their cancer survivor patients, according to new research published Wednesday in advance of the 47th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Currently there are at least 12 million cancer survivors in the United States. Some may have undergone cancer treatment as children; others may be older and only recently completed their cancer therapy.

While advances in cancer care have successfully kept more cancer patients alive, this new study finds there's room for improvement in their follow-up care. Primary care physicians and even cancer specialists need to be aware of the long-term effects of the drugs patients have taken to beat cancer.

Researchers at Harvard University, the National Institute of Nursing Research and the American Cancer Society surveyed nearly 1,100 primary care physicians and 1,100 oncologists or cancer specialists. They asked these doctors to identify the long-term side effects of four of the most widely used chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast and colorectal cancer, two of the most common cancers.

Overall, only 6% of primary care physicians and 65% of oncologists were aware of all the long-term side effects that the four drugs could cause.

When asked about the drug Doxorubicin, 55% of primary care physicians knew patients are at risk for cardiac dysfunction, compared to 95% of oncologists.

In the case of Cyclophosphamide, only 14% of primary care physicians knew women are likely to suffer premature menopause, compared to 71% of cancer specialists.

Study author Dr. Larissa Nekhlyudov says these physicians need to be informed about the long-term side effects of cancer treatment, "so that they may be better prepared to recognize and address these among cancer survivors."

"This is a problem of our success," says ASCO's president, Dr. Michael Link.

Dr. Neal Meropol, chief of the division of hematology and oncology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, says he's not surprised by these findings.

He says that, in the past, medical training has not been focused on making sure physicians taking care of cancer survivors are adequately prepared to deal with long-term side effects.

In addition to chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments affecting organs and tissues, Meropol also spoke about psychosocial problems patients can face, like fear of cancer recurrence. Problems with relationships also occur because patients are no longer functioning in crisis mode and reentry into a normal pattern is sometimes very difficult.

Experts agree that in the past, the emphasis has been to keep cancer patients alive, and that entire field of cancer survivorship is a pretty new one. But with the success of cancer care, more attention must be given to this area.

Meropol points out that it's now recommended by professional societies for doctors to provide a survivorship care and treatment plan when patients complete their cancer therapy. Such a plan will inform the patient of issues they may face and they can share this information with their physician.

However this doesn't help patients who had their cancer treated a long time ago. Link, who is a pediatric oncologist, says that data among people who survived childhood cancers may be even more alarming.

That's because pediatric patients are usually treated at an age when they are too young to remember exactly what type of cancer they had or how they were treated.

"Many don't even know how to spell it," says Link. By the time they see a regular doctor as adults, the likelihood that they know how they were treated and would give their physician accurate information is pretty low.

"This is a problem we've encountered for some time [in pediatric oncology] because we've had survivors for quite some time."

Not recognizing how a cancer survivor can develop treatment-related health problems is a concern. Link calls it a doctor-education problem and a patient-education problem, which he believes could be helped by better use of electronic medical records.

soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. Phange

    "Only 6% of primary care physicians were aware of the long term side effects"

    ....that's because they're PCPs, not Oncologists. Do you have any earthly idea just how much material a PCP needs to know just to do his job on the most basic level? Its not his job to master other fields as well as the specialists do – it's his job to provide preventive and diagnostic services.

    May 19, 2012 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Margaret

      While an Oncologist is required to know about the cancer and the treatment, once that is done they say come back and see me in 6 months. Meanwhile the primary is the one dealing with the patients complaints that may or may not be related to the treatment they had as a cancer patient. That is why we need doctors to work a little closer together and at least let each other know when something surfaces. My friend had bladder cancer, he is diabetic and the primary knew nothing about the relation of the medication Actos to bladder cancer. The Oncologist did, and when it was brought to the primary care, he said it was standard to prescribe Actos and was not happy about changing the medication. The patient has to do a lot of research so he can ask all the right questions of both doctors, and so he can look for unusual symptoms.

      May 19, 2012 at 18:00 | Report abuse |
    • Meggie

      If the PCP doesn't know when to refer to a specialist, he doesn't know enough. I was fortunate enough to read online that my symptoms were probably the result of chemo and needed urgent, immediate treatment. I switched doctors, and the next doctor recommended immediate emergency surgery which was done in five days, and probably saved my life.

      May 20, 2012 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
    • Wisski

      Margaret – My Oncologist sees me twice a month, after each chemo. If your Oncologist says "See me in 6 months" you need to go find an oncologist who didn't get their license out of a crackjack box.

      May 20, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
    • autumnngna

      Wisski not all cancers are the same and once you hit remission you dont see them as often.

      May 21, 2012 at 07:37 | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      Yes, it's true that you will get to the point of seeing the Oncologist every 6 months, but a good one (like Dr. M. Marcus, my Oncologist) will tell you to please call with any questions and he will be happy to see you before the 6 months...you should free to do this and get all of the answers you want/need from him or her...

      May 21, 2012 at 10:49 | Report abuse |
    • John

      I think Pharmacist can also play an important role in such a situation

      May 21, 2012 at 11:10 | Report abuse |
  2. Criolla

    I am thankful I had chemo, it was my choice , I had metrotrexate, cytoxan and 5FU, slow dense by vein at home, I am a 21 year suvivor from breast cancer, I have chemo brain, neurophaty for the last 5 years.
    I would do it again, breast cancer needs a very agressive treatments, there is no second chance, when it comes back there is no cure, only tratments to exten life.
    I worl in a cancer center and I see specially women refusing chemo because they do not want side effects specially losing their hair, it is fustrating because I know they will die unles a miracle happens.
    Oncologists explain side effects and GP makes sure I see who ever I need for my long term side effects.

    May 19, 2012 at 16:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Margaret

      I had a friend with breast cancer who refused chemo and radiation. She is still alive, but she spent over $40,000 on a quack who waved wands over her hand and gave her extreme doses of vitamins, and peroxide infusions. She is lucky that as far as she knows the cancer has not returned, but the weird treatments seem to have affected her thinking, but she won't go to a regular doctor now. By the way, once he got all her money he told her he could not see her anymore and the next week had up and moved. They are learning a lot about cancer and have new treatments all the time, depending on the type of cancer agressive treatment is required.

      May 19, 2012 at 18:07 | Report abuse |
    • wavejump1100

      i cant believe people would rather die from cancer than lose their hair! i am bald and would not trade a full head of hair for a bout with cancer

      May 19, 2012 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
    • Meggie

      There is no one disease when it comes to breast cancer, and not all breast cancers need aggressive treatment. My breast cancer was slow-growing and the CMF I took may have caused me more harm than good. However, the oncologists explained the facts known at that time and I made a choice based on the limited knowledge of the time. Today, doctors would probably tell me not to have chemo at all.

      May 20, 2012 at 08:52 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      I am a 7 year Stage II breast cancer survivor, and I am extremely happy to be alive and grateful that I had the treatment options that were available to save my life. Hair grows back, so I would never forego chemo based on that side-effect alone, although I do know women how have done just that and are alive and well today. I am suffering from 'ailments' that I blame on the chemotherapy. The doctors in my neck of the woods seem very hesitant to acknowledge chemo brain, the effects on the menstrual cycle, etc. My wish is that they would truly listen to the concerns of survivors and get the information out there, as this article has done–I was looking for more information than provided here though! The statistics show that chemo gives a breast cancer patients, such as myself, better long-term survival rates, and this information was presented to me at the time of treatment. I don't recall how much better the survival rates were with or without chemo treatment, but I'm quite sure it wasn't that drastic of a difference–I was looking for a guarantee to wipe cancer from my body and soul. If I had to do it all over again, I would have had the lump removed, gone through the radiation and probably skipped the chemo. Doctors need to continue to study the long-term benefits and risks much deeper than they have in the past so our sisters, daughters, granddaughters get the best treatment possible in the future.

      May 20, 2012 at 09:18 | Report abuse |
    • wilypagan

      Actually, around 50% of the women who received chemo after breast cancer do not benefit from it. If you are hormone positive, stage 2, check out the Ocogene DX test before you let them pump useless toxins into your body. Often hormone therapy is all that is needed.

      May 20, 2012 at 10:26 | Report abuse |
    • Pamela

      I have cancer and am starting year two for treatment and will continue till I hit the dirt, Pancreatic Cancer. Chemo brain is common but what are your options there are none. My chemo friend read every drug, every side effect, every thing about everything and she refused treatments and is gone. You do what you can to stay here a little longer and if you get chemo brain well just make adjustments. There are some cancers where you can make choices on treatement or no treatment like breast, prostate, skin. There isn't a day that doesn't pass that I would trade out for breast cancer any day of the week. If you start forgetting, I start writing everything down...and I work full time also...you make adjustments to survive.

      May 20, 2012 at 17:23 | Report abuse |
  3. Afflicted

    I was hoping this article might outline some of the side effects. The best way to navigate the medical system is to be armed with information, in my opinion. 4 years out from diagnosis with Stage III breast cancer, here, and there are things I researched that changed my treatment and caught several conditions afterwards. And by the way, breast cancer can reoccur without being "incurable", as in, in the other breast; also, metastasized cancer has been increasingly shown to be controllable, and there are an increasing number of women who have "NED" (no evident disease), even though they have metastasized cancer. Incurable is not the same as untreatable or uncontrollable. I have several incurable conditions, so I'm quite familiar with that! And whereas it's true that there are some breast cancers that must be dealt with "aggressively", like triple negative, each person is different. Essentially, the practice now is to surgically remove the cancer, and then as I say, "throw the kitchen sink" at it, with chemo and/or radiation recommended for many. But chemo has been shown in many studies to be no more effective than endocrine therapy for Stage I and II cancers, and response always depends on the individual cancer, some of which are aggressive, and some of which are slow growing. So take the doom and gloom out, sister. 🙂 Basic message: Early detection is your best ally, but if you're one of the growing number of women that get diagnosed with breast cancer, don't panic. Even recurrence isn't a death sentence.

    May 19, 2012 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fifi

    I watched two relatives get eaten up by chemo (sat with one throu the painful treatment), and was unfortunately talked into putting my dog through a "new" (meaning experimental) chemo by a greedy and over ambitious vet (who used my dog as a marketing tool to further his career). If I am ever diagnosed with cancer, I will refuse all chemo treatment offered. I would rather put a gun to my head than go through that he ll.

    May 19, 2012 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Char

      I'm with you....unless they can give me really high odds of obtaining remission....leave me alone...watched too many people rot away with that disease....after they were told months earlier....you are cancer free.

      May 19, 2012 at 21:03 | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Wow! You sat with one person who's gone through chemo and that makes you want to die instead of valuing your life? Let me just say this...............I've sat with my mother through 18 months of chemo......my father (who they said wouldn't live a year but ended up living 17 years and was well enough to go dancing twice a week and take monthly trips with his senior citizen's group), and with my husband through not 1 but 2 cancers and I saw everyone in that chemo room and believe me, no one was complaining. And your dog? Really? You're comparing cancer treatment on a dog to humans? I love my 3 dogs like they were my children but I'm also intelligent enough to know that it's like comparing apples to bananas. It's your civil right to decline treatment but a lot of the comments on here are by people actually went through the treatments themselves and they know how it feels and obviously they're still alive and I'll bet if you asked them, they'd tell you they would go back and do it all over again because they're still alive! And @ Char....no one can guarantee your survival. My husband had a 20 percent chance of survival. But he's finished with chemo, has no evidence of disease, and thankful for every day that he wakes up and so am I. So never say never.

      May 20, 2012 at 10:01 | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      You do't lose your life when you die, at least not in my opinion. Life goes on and on and on. Death is nothing to be afraid of.

      May 20, 2012 at 20:34 | Report abuse |
    • Horace

      Our vet wanted to put our cat on chemo after surgery in 2000. She was 8 and the vet said that she would probably die in 6 months to a year. We opted not to do it...and she died this year at age 18. So she had another 10 years w/out the cat chemo. There is a certain cruelty to some of these treatments. My father had radiation for prostate cancer in his 70's. Today I understand they probably would not have treated him, given what they have learned about overly-aggressive treatment. The radiation didn't work, by the way, and he had hormone therapy to keep his PSA down. But now, at age 90, for the past several years he has had one problem after another based on the radiation exposure. He's in the hospital way too often through the year due to problems caused by the radiation. These treatments do not come without a cost in these animals or people. The highest medical body in the US has come out with a recommendation that the PSA test not be given because studies show treatment like surgery and radiation do not extend life when compared to non-treatment groups. And yet the Urologists are up in arms and decrying this (possibly because it would greatly and negatively impact their income). Too much of medicine has become a racket...

      May 21, 2012 at 01:25 | Report abuse |
    • queenbee10

      What many people do not address or understand about the decisions people make concerning treatment is "quality of life" some people want to live no matter what while others have less of dying and would rather enjoy the time they have. In one year, I lost 5 people to cancer–almost all had lung cancer which metastisized to their livers or brains. My mother died of lung cancer after getting chemo for 2 years with a secret experimental protocol–despite a morphine drip, she died in excruciating pain, screaming all the way.

      I also took her to her chemo sessions. Later, my dad died of lung cancer and he only lasted 2 months from diagnosis to death–Ironically, he had just been given the "all clear" for a successful surgery due to prostate cancer when 2 weeks later, complaining of a cough they supposedly found the lung cancer–amazing how they missed that.

      Sickness is a business and Cancer is big business. I was in the big pharm industry and worked for companies that made Vincristine, Vinblastine, 5 flurouricil, methotrexate, etc–Big money in those drugs–so big that they almost could inspire an unscrupulous person to diagnose cancer even where it is not just to expose people to treatments to collect the money.

      What most people do not know is that all the anticancer drugs are actually both mutagens and carcinogens–this means they can CAUSE cancer–and many do not understand that many patients die NOT from the cancer but from the treatments for the diseases.

      Cancer treatments have not really changed since it was first discovered–either cut it out, use radiation to kill off large areas of cells or bombard people with chemo and cross your fingers that enough healthy cells live to survive the treatment.

      I did know this–I have said and retain the belief that when faced with cancer, I'd go for surgery, but not chemo and not radiation. Others may not agree with this but YOUR version of what is important means nothing when it is my life and body.

      This was put to the test in 2011 when a tumor was found in my breast. it was removed–they wanted to do more–I think not–if/when I return for follow up–if I am diagnosed with a spread of cancer, I plan to live my remaining time to the fullest–no weird acts, no heroic measures–just a good life and I hope I leave everyone laughing–not screaming–My choice.

      Just because to many life at any cost is the catch phrase, does not mean we all see life or living it in the same way. I'd like to leave on a graceful note–and I'd like to be able to enjoy myself–my mom spent her 2 years sick, not able to enjoy eating, cooking or even being around us very much–she just hung on with her nails–and when her time came, she was dragged kicking and screaming in terror into the abyss. it was horrible. I agree with you FiFi–for me–I want to meet death on my own terms–not being a payday or guinea pig for what I KNOW is a very unscrupulous and questionable industry.

      May 21, 2012 at 01:53 | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      > amazing how they missed that.

      I didn't realize they went through the lungs to reach the prostate.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
  5. Kelly

    As a 30-year survivor of stage III rhabdomyosarcoma (a rare pediatric cancer), I know all too well the devastating long-term effects of chemo and radiation – the list is long and still growing. While I am grateful every day to still be here, it has been a long and difficult road – primarily because I've been so alone in trying to manage this chronic illness called "Life after Cancer". I compare it to aging-out of the foster care system; it's like "Hooray, you're cured . . . now go on your merry little way". But, that was just Step 1.
    I Am very glad to see that they are finally realizing there's a lot more to it than that. In recent years I've sort of become "the accidental activist" in raising awareness and research money for childhood cancer. As we are fortunate to have more and more survivors, it is so important to also learn how to improve their after-treatment quality of life.

    May 19, 2012 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Survivor

    This is a great article. I am a 3x survivor of breast cancer and my current Drs have no idea how to treat my "side effects" after numerous rounds of chemo and radiation, not to mention the major physiological impact this had had on my life. I am very grateful to be alive, but the lack of understanding and empathy for a cancer survivor can be quite overwhelming. Thank you for this article and please keep informing the public of the struggle of the cancer survivors face once treatment is over.

    May 19, 2012 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Katie

    Some friends of mine had a baby that became ill with leukemia. Thanks to modern medicine, she survived. What they weren't told, was that the chemo would leave deposits of calcium in her brain, and she would forever be challenged. She is like a grown up three year old – can't read, can't write, can do simple tasks but not reliably, is prone to sudden mood changes, and has a lot motor skill impairment. She is well loved and well cared for, but no one knew what was happening for many, many years – her pediatrician just kept saying she was developing slower because of what she had been through as an infant.

    It may take more training, but the pediatricians and family care doctors should have SOME kind of understanding about the long term side effects.

    May 20, 2012 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cheryl S

      I wonder if this child would have been challenged any way. I know others whose children also had leukemia & chemo and are fine. Each person reacts in his/her own way to medical treatment, so bless them.

      May 21, 2012 at 08:52 | Report abuse |
  8. Bob B

    Doctors know it's no good for people. I some cases that's all they can use. There are other ways of treating cancer. Google Dr. Burzynski to find out more.

    May 20, 2012 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • autumnngna

      Anyone hear that duck running around here? Research some more and dont go by a paid advertisement movie that tries to tug at the heart strings to get you to believe something.

      May 21, 2012 at 07:50 | Report abuse |
  9. Linda

    My husband had lung cancer,and 5 years ago and he had chemotherapy,and radiation and the cancer was going and when he finished all the treatment ,the cancer came back and he had to start all over again,now he is cancer free but it left him without his memory,and ,never feel well anymore ,he can't drive ,he don't go anywhere anymore because he can't even have a normal talk with us and I,am glad he is alive ,but he can't even work anymore he just sit around all the time

    May 20, 2012 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike OMD

      Feel bad for him...I highly recoomend you give him alot of reishi mushroom.

      May 21, 2012 at 00:38 | Report abuse |
  10. Denise

    For starters there's Berberine, Sweet Annie, Feverfew as DMAPT,Ip6,Indolecarbinole,ellagictannins,Turmeric,Boswiella extract, mullaca,anamu,Pau d arco,Chinese skullcap,Graviola,msm maybe natura pacreatic enzymes followed by a herbal anti fungal,bacterial,viral formula, hyperbaric oxygen therapy,green juices,alkalize your body,Raw juiced cannabinoids look at the studio on PUBMED....there are many saying no to chemo its our personal right!

    May 20, 2012 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JeramieH

      > anti fungal,bacterial,viral formula, hyperbaric oxygen therapy

      Fail on understanding on the biology of cancer.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:34 | Report abuse |
  11. Denise

    Eh Forgive the typos ...Chemo is a big deal the best thing to do is READ THE RESEARCH...also how many DR's
    have you seen take chemo!

    May 20, 2012 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Another Student

    Just came to say that this survey didn't survey the people who are REALLY experts on chemotherapy drugs and their side effects – oncology pharmacists. Yes, there are pharmacists who work with patients to figure out which chemotherapy options are best and information about how to avoid or treat the side effects. Pharmacists are becoming more and more specialized – don't forget about them as a great source of information!

    May 20, 2012 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Janet

    Many people reading these comments are facing death, some sooner, some later. My only advice is don't worry, it's going to be alright. Life is much more than a few years on this earth–you don't "lose your life" when you leave. By all means try to stick around as long as it's reasonable, but if it looks like the end is coming, don't worry. That, of course, is just my opinion and others may differ.

    May 20, 2012 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cheryl S

      Unless you have died and come back, you can't say with any certainty what happens when we die. It's all a crap-shoot.

      May 21, 2012 at 08:55 | Report abuse |
  14. mmi16

    Treated for Colon Cancer in 1996 with surgery, chemo and radiation – see the Oncologist yearly and am doing everything I was doing prior to the surgery.

    May 21, 2012 at 01:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • queenbee10

      You were "treated for colon cancer" in 1996? You may have been told you had cancer and you may have been "treated" but you may also have never had cancer in the first place–some providers are lying about lab and test results to bilk insurance companies and patients out of money–and the only way you can find out is if, upon getting a diagnosis, you take it outside of that network (preferably across the country or even out of country) when that happens–sometimes the "diagnosis is debunked–Colon cancer has a survival rate of 74% at the most survived at Stage 1 the number gets worse and worse depending on the stage but like prostate cancer–some are diagnosed as having the cancer when they do not–of course, then, their survival rate is pretty good since they never had the cancer in the first place–Misdiagnosis or questionable testing happens more than most people want to think about.

      May 21, 2012 at 02:17 | Report abuse |
  15. Cheryl S

    I am a 15-year breast cancer survivor. I have suffered the following side effects from chemo:
    early menopause (age 49)
    chemo-induced arthritis in my knees (1 knee replaced already, other soon)
    thinning hair (after it fell out, it didn't come back as full)
    If you ask me if it's worth it, I have to say yes, but I wish I had been prepared in advance.

    May 21, 2012 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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    May 21, 2012 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jane

    I am a 19 year survivor of a pediatric lymphoma and a 7 month survivor of breast cancer. The breast cancer was caught in stage 1 because my doctors knew enough about my treatment as a child to know this was a huge secondary risk factor and therefore ensured I was tested yearly with mammograms and MRIs. Catching these things early is the key...so any effort to publicize and educate our health care providers can only be a good thing.

    May 21, 2012 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Bill

    My mother had chemo for breast cancer that I truly feel may not have ever become a problem if it was not accidently found during another treatment. Besides the initial complications during chemo treatment, there have been many other problems. She has had thinned hair that never recovered, issues with teeth, and some changes in her personality. She also was a person who would never forget anything and was very sharp. There has definately been a cognitive loss due to the treatment. All that I have said is, obviously, based on observation. I would be very skeptical if me or my wife were diagnosed with a nonagressive/questionable tumor in the future, whether chemo is justified. Something to think about, because I do not think physicians are truly aware of the damage chemo can inflict.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. chemobrainfog

    It is IMPERATIVE that we are "empowered patients" .... that we know what questions to ask and how to determine the actual risk /reward with any treatment. I don't remember what my "actual benefit" was when I elected to do 8 rounds of CMF in 2006-7 after a diagnosis of invasive lobular BC. I do remember that, for ME, deriving any benefit was worthwhile. IF something happens in the future, I will never look back and say "maybe if I had done the chemo...."

    We are all different, all cancers are different.... and as for long term effects.... I suffer from serious cognitive issues (confirmed by evaluation at a major cancer center). The first studies were recently released about the long term "chemobrain" associated with CMF TWENTY years post treatment.

    Survivorship is an area of care that is coming into its own. The good news, I suppose, is that there were not enough of us to require "treatment protocols" ...... The bad news... chemotherapy is TOXIC. It's that simple. More research, better research, MEANINGFUL research is what we need.... We shouldn't still be at this same point with breast cancer after all of the money thrown at the pink ribbon. That, however, is a different issue entirely....


    May 21, 2012 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mallory

    Chemotherapy can help heal cancer. It can be dangerous but I don't think they should stop using it. Doctors just need to be cautious.

    May 21, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. mac101

    This is true of many drugs, not just chemotherapy, almost all drug studies only follow patients for 12 months. It isn't until much later that long-term effects are noted and linked to a particular drug. It took forever to finally make the link between hormone replacement therapy and higher rates of breast cancer.

    At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, no one could predict the long-term effects of these drugs – and there are many – but at the time the choice was: die now, pretty horribly, or try these essentially experimental drugs and take your chances with the future. Chemo for cancer is no different.

    All drugs have side effects. And chemo definitely has some pretty toxic side effects – the whole goal of chemo drugs is to kill body cells, many of them would be classified as poison if they were given for a non-life threatening disease.

    We need more research, and then we need a way to educate providers on what we know. And sometimes, we don't know much.

    May 21, 2012 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carlo

      Thank you for your video, I am just growing my hair back and was wenodring how long it would take? you made me cry, that is exactly how I look my hair is only 1/4 inch long. From another survivor to another. You are beautiful and you made me feel the same way. <3<3Thanks again

      August 4, 2012 at 01:33 | Report abuse |
  22. voicoresn

    not a single comment on how nutrition and diet figures into the whole cancer picture. Forks over knives ... forks over knives.

    May 21, 2012 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Pat

    I am a nine year breast cancer survivor – early stage 2. When I first was diagnosed and they were staging my cancer I did not want to go through chemo (but who does), so yes, fear of losing my hair but that was not the main reason. Other concerns were changes to my skin – not in a good way, nausea, exhaustion, metabolic changes that would leave me permanently chunky and what pouring bad bad chemicals into my veins would do to the rest of my body. At the time my children were young and I would have done whatever the doctors said. Now, I would not take the treatment if cancer returned. I see so many people who do chemo and their cancers still come back or people who spend the last months or years of their lives barely existing due to treatments. I admire those who refuse and have seen some amazing outcomes when a strict vegan diet is followed or not. Both ways, poison is just not good for the human body. Don't believe everything your doc/oncologist says. They are trained to think one way and not to deviate. Also, death should not be feared; it is the circle of life.This is my take on it and I do know how much cancer sucks 🙁

    May 21, 2012 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Medha Srikanth

    Yes… The most dangerous path in a woman’s life when she goes through the treatment of Breast cancer and its side effects.

    I have made a very small attempt to inform what happens when the actual chemotherapy is done and what a woman face when it affects her mental health.

    Please go through the link :


    May 22, 2012 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Mike Stone

    I was diagnosed with stage 4 Colon Cancer 2 years ago and it had metastased to my liver. After surgery to remove growths from colon and now chemo every three weeks, the liver cancer lesions appear to be reducing. MD Anderson have fantastic doctors and facilities and to anyone that is suffering from cancer go to MDA and they will look after you with regular followups and the least intrusive treatment options that can be found. The chemo is not great, but one "not so good" week out of every four and the strong likelihood of surviving for many productive years is worth the risk.

    May 22, 2012 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Hap Hall

    I hear it all the time, " get it checked out". I ask how? I am a 62 year old man, worked every day of my life and can not afford medical insurance. I have not had any of the tests that i should have had starting at age 40. My only defense has been to be informed by controlling my diet, being a non-smoking and a non meat eater. But still it is not a matter of if, but when, i will need medical attention that i can not afford.

    May 27, 2012 at 08:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Wilber Pavon

    I had leukemia went I was 10 yrs old in my country( nicaragua ) n my doctors told my mom to bring me to the united states because they didn't have the medications to cured me there. We came to Miami fl to the childrens caring center @ jackson memorial hospital and after 2 yrs of chemotherapy,blood transfuse,many months of chemo which make u sleep for hrs,loss of hair, days n months go by n you forget everything around you because u always sleeping b/c of how strong chemo is,couple of yrs of remission. I'm 35 now and nobody tho I was going to live because how sick I was but god gave me a second opportunity in life to live and I'm been healty for many years without need to see a doctor also I never been back to the hospital for any reason at all in almost 15 yrs and counting. Again everyone's lucky is different also the doctors,staff n everyone involve in my time of treatment were my angels because they took care of me really loving as one of their own. especially the lady ( lee Klein ) who helps every children that goes there n have no way to pay their treatment like me. Hey I almost forgot I ate many naturals food which I think it help during my sick days, lots of fish soup,shark soup,lots of fish,vitamins,bean soup, used to drink soups almost everyday for many years n still do it. Sometimes not only medication cure but some other naturals food which people don't even know they outthere. If you going to die at least die trying other options it may give you a longer life n doctors now on days will never recommend naturals food because they lose money they will always keep you in medications till you die. God bless every survivor and sick people in the planet. Wilber Pavon

    June 15, 2012 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Wilber Pavon

    To anyone who think that what I say it could be a good testimony or you think I can give life back by sharing my story I be happy to help. wilbersp@yahoo.com

    June 15, 2012 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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  30. Linda

    I found out i had stage 3 colon cancer april of 2011 had surgery and went through chemo and took the chemo pill 6 times a day for six months when finshed started raditon took 28 treatments of them it has been a year and i still can not control my bowels ,and having back trouble had a mir and it said i had arthurtis ,and radition had damaged my bones in my back .also had herina surgery in april of this year and it won't heal right have to go every week to have fluid drew off,doc said you'r body may not heal right after radtion did not tell me this before surgery.

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  31. Araceli

    My 3 year old son was recently diagnosed with embryonal rhabadomyosarcoma stage III group 2a. Tumor was located in his abdomen area and removed it didnt spread. His treatment plan is 45 weeks my question is why does he need so much chemo when tumor was removed?

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  32. Jesus

    Your beautiful! This video made me smile Im 16 and I have ocamostrsoea which is bone cancer. Im still doing chemo, but i only have 5 more treatment to go! And I cannot wait for my hair to come back, i wear nothing but colorful beanies to match my outfits but i just wanna go out like a normal teen without it. My hair tries to grow out every chance it gets but it always ends up falling out when i go back in for more chemo. But, it'll come soon! So happy to hear your a survivor! God Bless!

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.