The Benefits and Harmful Effects of Chemotherapy as a Treatment to Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is the second most common cancer, and 232,000 women are diagnosed with it every year (National). For years now, researchers have been trying to find an answer to this unanswered question: Is there a cure to this disease and what is it? Chemotherapy is one of the answers to this question, but it comes with many harmful effects. Despite the fact that women with breast cancer are still undergoing harmful procedures such as chemotherapy, research has proven that there are more effective options, such as targeted intraoperative radiotherapy and hormone therapy.

Chemotherapy is harmful and is not the best choice out there. Chemotherapy commonly requires women constant hours upon hours of treatments and visits to the doctor. Some chemotherapy drugs can prevent cancer recurrence and death but result in heart and immune problems (Simon). Since it creates more problems instead of resolving them it puts a negative outlook on it. Chemotherapy is also very inaccurate and can result in unplanned outcomes. It not only kills the cancer cells but it also kills the healthy and normal cells (Simon). Since it does not offer a direct target it is hard to hit it without damaging the area around it. Chemotherapy furthermore damages the brain permanently and results in cognitive problems. “A quarter to a third of women” has reported several outcomes such as, “concentration, motor function, and memory”, which can be long-term and permanent. Not only may the symptoms be permanent but they can also be life changing as well. These symptoms consist of things such as, “multi-tasking and processing speed” (Schug). “[W]hat’s less known is how the cancer treatment affects crucial brain functions, like speech and cognition” (Neighmond). This brain damage is referred to as ‘chemo brain’ and it affects parts of the brain that are ‘grey’ and manage speech and cognition.

Targeted intraoperative radiotherapy is a more effective option, rather than chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. Targeted intraoperative radiotherapy, or TARGIT, requires only one treatment that is fast and easy, compared to chemotherapy that requires many enduring operations. Catharine Paddock claims that TARGIT “use[s] a miniature X-ray machine to deliver targeted radiation to the tumor site” and it can be done and over within one operation. Since women only have to go in once it can be taken care of, “at the same time as their lumpectomy” (Paddock). This option is one of the overall best solutions since it reduces the heart, organs and the breast from being overexposed to toxins and radiation. Like all operations, TARGIT has some side effects but they are extremely acute and minor compared to chemo. Research has been done and suggests that, “[r]are adverse effects following IORT included wound healing problems (2%)” (Intraoperative). Even though the chance of wound healing problems is slim, it still poses an advantage over chemo.

Hormone therapy is another option for women with breast cancer, which is more precise and accurate compared to chemotherapy. Hormone therapy is a drug based treatment that uses drugs to block hormones from growing. As the Temple University Health System states, “[it] block[s] the effect of estrogen on cancer cells…have no effect on the estrogen levels; instead, they prevent estrogen from causing the breast cancer cells to grow” (“Hormonal”). This treatment only helps you and does not act as a threat towards your body. The side effects that come with hormonal therapy are different. Unlike chemotherapy, which brings life changing side effects like ‘chemo brain’, hormone therapy bears less affective outcomes. The researchers at Cancer Research UK claim that “most people only have one or two of these side effects and they may be mild…hot flashes and sweats, change to your periods…feeling sick, painful joints” (“Breast”). The side effects with hormonal therapy are minor and have no effect on your brain and how you function, such as memory loss.

Even though women with breast cancer are still undergoing chemotherapy, there are better options out there, such as hormone therapy and targeted intraoperative therapy. Many people have died from breast cancer, along with other cancers, and people still will if we don’t solve this problem soon. In order to accomplish this task, the government needs to provide more funds towards the research of these new and improved procedures, and then we will solve this deadly problem once and for all.