Chemotherapy is Painful – A Common Myth

Chemotherapy is Painful – A Common Myth

Most cancer patients who are advised chemotherapy have this fear that chemotherapy is a painful process. Many of them are not very clear whether chemotherapy is an injection or a kind of radiation. We aim to clarify this myth regarding chemotherapy being painful and explain the process of chemotherapy in simple words for common people.

Firstly, a chemotherapy injection is usually diluted in saline or dextrose and then transfused to the patient through the veins. To the surprise of most people, receiving chemotherapy is not at all painful in most cases. Local pain at the site of injection may happen if dilution of chemotherapy is not appropriate or if the chemotherapy is administered within less than the prescribed time. This problem can be solved by appropriate dilution which is dependent on patient tolerance of fluid and veins.

Secondly, certain chemotherapy drugs may cause local pain if they leak out of the site of injection. This can be avoided by using Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) line or chemo port for administering chemotherapy. If neither PICC line nor chemo port is available then a trained chemotherapy nurse should carefully securea cannula which is the third option.

Thirdly, certain chemotherapy drugs do not cause local pain immediately but may cause pain after a few days in case of leaks. This problem again can be solved by using either PICC line or chemo port.

Fourthly, in today’s world there is not just one type of injection that is utilised to treat cancer. There are multiple other types of therapies like immunotherapy and targeted therapies which are not chemotherapy but are given through injections. For obvious reasons these are also not at all painful because they do not harm local tissue even if they leak out.

In majority of the cases chemotherapy administration is not at all painful and this common myth should be allayed in all patients because many patients refuse chemotherapy only because of the self-perceived fear that chemotherapy is painful. In fact, for most of the chemotherapy agents, the patient may not even realize that chemotherapy was given unless informed.

Dr. Bharat Patodiya

Consultant Medical Oncologist