"Chemotherapy, in its most general sense, is the treatment of disease by chemicals especially by killing micro-organisms or cancerous cells. In popular usage, it refers to antineoplastic drugs used to treat cancer or the combination of these drugs into a cytotoxic standardized treatment regimen. In its non-oncological use, the term may also refer to antibiotics (antibacterial chemotherapy). In that sense, the first modern chemotherapeutic agent was Paul Ehrlich's arsphenamine, an arsenic compound discovered in 1909 and used to treat syphilis. This was later followed by sulfonamides discovered by Domagk and penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming.
Most commonly, chemotherapy acts by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells. This means that it also harms cells that divide rapidly under normal circumstances: cells in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles; this results in the most common side effects of chemotherapy—myelosuppression (decreased production of blood cells), mucositis (inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract) and alopecia (hair loss).
Other uses of cytostatic chemotherapy agents (including the ones mentioned below) are the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis,Dermatomyositis, Polymyositis, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and the suppression of transplant rejections (see immunosuppression and DMARDs). Newer anticancer drugs act directly against abnormal proteins in cancer cells; this is termed targeted therapy."
Please note paragraph #2. It sure looks like what a lot of us are dealing with right now.
People on this board use different terms but the explanation I personally liked best came from Mr. Liver (check out the rest of that thread, it's kind of interesting):
"Chemotherapy generally involves chemicals that are used to do the exact opposite of what HCV therapy attempts to do. IFN is an immunomodulatory drug. It is used to increase the immune system's capabilities in an attempt to protect the body's living cells. Chemotherapy generally uses chemicals which are cytotoxic and results in the killing of living cells. In many chemotherapy regimens (leukemias for example) the primary goal is one of a massive die off of healthy cells....
There really isn't too much that they share in common.
But, what's in a name, anyway ? Call it whatever you want."
If talking to my son (who's a scientist), I call IFN an 'immunomodulatory' drug, now that I can finally pronounce it.
If talking to a hairdresser (mine really bugged me to know why my curly hair had been straight for almost a year post-tx), I mumble that it's from chemotherapy, end of talk, and we move on to style stuff.
(BTW, many kinds of cancer are treated with immunotherapy.)
Calling it chemo is a way of shutting people up if you don't want the 'conversation'; on the other hand, it can elicit sympathy that I don't usually feel comfy with. It's still kind of hit and miss as to how I handle this out in the everyday world.
What strikes me, outside of here in forumland, is that most people don't know what Hepatitis C is, let alone immunotherapy. There's a real disconnect between the heightened awareness here on the forum and 'out there', so sometimes calling it a 'kind of chemotherapy for a year' works with less hassle.
A really smart fellow I admired on this board, Jmjm530, referred to it as chemo and if anyone knew that the 'correct' or best answer on a med school multiple choice test was immunotherapy, it was him.
So sleep tight and good night.
P.S. It seems like yesterday (to me, anyway!) that you took your first injection and now you only have 39 to go. One shot at a time, one step at a time, and you'll be looking back at this from the SVR side. Hang in there, girl.
Calling it chemo is a way of shutting people up if you don't want the 'conversation';"
Honestly I totally get what Diane is saying here. If you need to explain and don't want to say then it works just fine. It's really nobodies business what we are doing but some people just DONT take no for an answer and push and push and I remember wanting to punch them because they would not stop. "But what KIND of cancer do you have?" ("I dont want to talk about it thank you") "When did you GET this cancer and what kind was it again?" ("I don't want to talk about it again but thank you for your wishes") "What kind of cancer is it called again?".........GAH!
However on here for us who've undergone it, we all do (hopefully) realize that this is not really chemo - and we're damn lucky it's not. At the rate most heppers complain (self included at the time I was on tx) we'd never make it through if it were.
We are damn lucky. I don't ever want to do 'real' chemo, God bless those who have and made it through and never complainned about ribarashes and things like we do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I rather like the term chemotherapy since it creates a means of explaining the changes which may occur. I know of people who lost their jobs either during TX or as a result of disclosing their HCV positive status. Calling it chemo grants us the privacy granted to cancer patients but with less stigma and more safety.
I rather don't like the term immunotherapy or immunomodulation because IFN is not the only agent being used; there is also RBV and it is not an immunomodulator, whatever that may mean.
I also think that calling interferon an "immunomodulator" is deceptive. I don't believe that it modulates, or controls immune response, rather it increases it and in some cases it may increase it to the point that it is out of control.
A percentage of people on TX end up with auto-immune issues either during or post TX. Interferon is not advised for people with auto-immune issues. I would think that an immunomodulator would be just the ticket for people with autoimmune issues. Instead, interferon might be one of the most ill advised drug choices; it ramps up immune response where steroids ramp down immune response.
Technically and according to the medical community interferon = immunotherapy
Ribavirin = antiviral therapy
As stated on the the thread below, there is a huge difference between chemotherapy and immuno/antiviral therapy. How any one chooses to define their treatment is strictly up to them but there are distinct differences with chemo therapy being horrific for all who undergo it.
Did ya'll read paragraph #2? I don't know about you, but my blood cells are being slowly destroyed, I'm nauseas, and my hair has started dropping out.. granted, it is one at a time instead of handfulls, but then again, do people with cancer take chemo for a year? I don't know the answer to that... the few people I have known with it did it for a few months. My point is either way, healthy cells are being destroyed, and we feel really rotten. When you're in the middle of it all, especially on a Monday when you're still getting over the shot, it feels like a punch in the nose to have somebody say you don't really feel THAT bad. We get enough of that from the people around us. This forum is where we come to be understood, not demeaned.
Food for thought...For the "is it or is it not chemo?" contemplations...Here's the similarities...First of all, "Chemotherapy" simply means "chemical therapy".
All cancers are caused by viruses -rapidly replicating (cells that make copies of themselves) single-cells. Some are attained from the outside world (e.g. HPV), most are not. Hep C is a virus attained from someone else. Some cancers leave the door open for bacteria caused infections -so antibiotics are included in the "chemotherapy".
There are different kinds of chemo in cancer treatment. Nearly all use Interferon to ramp up the immune system (Like Hep C). For different cancers, there are different viral suppressors -Taxol for example that targets cells excited by estrogen (e.g. breast tissue). In Hep C, the viral suppressant is Ribavirin (newer stuff coming)....
I believe the resistance in the medical world to call hep C treatment "chemotherapy" is because of the stigma attached to it. Since most of the population (many in the health care field as well) are ignorant to modes of hep C spread and believe Hep C as a "drug user's" disease (just like HIV was believed to be a homosexual's disease) and resist including it in the "unfortunate" diseases "nice people" get. Its the same reason the term "remission" isn't used. (although "relapse" is certainly in our vocabulary...)
After reading Liver's old post, I wonder what treatment he was subjected to...many old-timers went through mono-therapy (just Interferon?) which didn't work very well...
My cousin has MS and he takes IFN. He doesn't call it chemo. Of course his disease doesn't have our stigma. But we definitely really don't do real chemo - regardless of what we want to call it, if we are considering it "chemical therapy" we could always say that but then again people would totally want to know what that meant, why we were doing it, etc. etc.
Sometimes I think it would have been easier to wear a name tag saying "I'm sick, don't ask I don't want to tell".
I think if you polled 1000 people 99.9% to 100% would mention the word "cancer" when asked to define "chemotherapy". And, of course, we don't have cancer.
We can pick out "interferon" and say that it is used to treat some types of cancer and that it is being investigated as a treatment for some types of cancer but does that really equate TX with chemotherapy? I have seen people undergo chemotherapy and, as rough of a time as I had, there is no comparison between what I went through and what they went through. And I treated for a long time..
Calling TX "chemo" is an over-dramatization and really flies in the face of the common usage of the term.
"Chemotherapy" is universally understood as drugs to fight cancer.
Why do we have to get into "immunomodulator" or "immunotherapy"?
Who are we trying to impress anyway?
Actually, I believe that TX could be considered both immunotherapy and chemotherapy.
While IFN is a natural agent produced by the body's immune system making TX immunotherapy, Riba is an antiviral agent that acts against many ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid viruses by inhibiting protein synthesis and replication, hence a form of chemotherapy.
I agree it could be considered "chemotherapy".
It might also be considered a "water soluble protein and anti-viral therapy".
This is all very academic in my opinion.
If you told 1000 doctors you were undergoing "chemotherapy" what percentage of them would assume you had cancer? Maybe 100%? I doubt any would say - Oh, you're treating hepatitis c.
If you told 1000 laymen that you were undergoing "chemotherapy" what percentage would assume you had cancer? Maybe 100%?
I think that common usage and common understanding prevails. Unless, of course, you're intent is to deceive someone into believing that you have/had cancer. Isn't it really that simple? People will misunderstand if you say you're undergoing chemotherapy.
Maybe we'd rather be academically intriguing than understood.
And, chemotherapy is generally a much harder to tolerate than is hep c treatment - from everything I have seen.
Well you have to admit Michael it's certainly much more dramatic if you are going for attention or something isn't it? Yes, next time I am going to the chiropractor I think I'll just mention to the guys at work that I'm having spinal manipulation surgery.........should be close enough an explanation since I dont want them to know my personal business.
Seriously, while on tx I said I was undergoing chemo - which at the time I did errantly really believe it was a form of.........but I've learned better from the more experienced members of this forum than I - and I don't really make that mistake any longer. Of course, I would probably still tell people I was doing 'chemo' because in this gossip mongering place it was the only way I felt I could handle the questions being thrown at me. It doesn't make what I said 'correct' but it is the reason that I did it. Two separate actions. But in here now that I know better - no. And that is why we continue to learn each and every day.
The executive summary is that hep c treatment IS chemotherapy, not because interferon is used in oncology, but because ribavirin interferes with YOUR cell RNA transcription process. This is what makes ribavirin cytostatic and the treatment chemotherapy. Because a virus needs your cell to copy it, a cell with faulty RNA transcription will make faulty viruses, "bad copies", thereby reducing the efficiency at which your cells contribute to continued infection by the virus.
As a public service, many doctors stay away from the term "chemotherapy" when talking about hep c so that patients don't associate the disease with cancer. Hence hep c chemotherapy is called "treatment". The industry does this all the time. For example, NUCLEAR magnetic resonance imaging is simply called MRI because people associate the word nuclear with radiation and all the bad things associated with that word.
The geek summary is that ribavirin is an adenosine analog, the molecule appears and functions a lot like the genetic building block adenine when incorporated into RNA. When RNA is copied, adenine would normally ONLY pair with uracil, but ribavirin can ALSO pair with guanine. Substituting a guanine when a uracil is called for in the virus RNA is a "mistake" as far as the virus is concerned. Each incorporation of ribavirin into the virus RNA transcription process may induce a mistake in the final virus copy, potentially rendering the final viral copy "dead".
This also causes problems for YOUR cells. Unlike the virus however, your cells are organisms AND they are part of a complementary system which supports the cells' proper health and development. This means that cells can cope with some RNA transcription problems and your body has mechanisms to control cells that can't. Interrupting RNA transcription reduces the rate at which ALL cells in your body replicate but this impacts cells that need to replicate quickly the most and hence ribavirin commonly causes conditions such as anemia (reduced red blood cell count) and neutropenia (reduced white blood cell count) among others.
Finally, this propensity for causing genetic mutations is the reason why ribavirin is a pregnancy category X drug, "strongly discouraged". Males on ribavirin may produce sperm with bad DNA, while females on the drug who get pregnant put the embryo at risk of genetic mutation since embryonic development is so dependent on super fast cell replication.
If you've ever seen anybody on real chemotherapy - someone gone plug and play.........you would never think again to insist that this is what you're doing. You'd just be damn grateful that you are not in their shoes. This is namby pamby stuff for babies compared to what they have to do - in each and every case no matter how bad you think you've got it. Overinflated hyperactive dramatic ego's would consider interferon/riba - chemo but most certainly a cancer patient would not.
Has anyone on here really done both? I have one friend who has and she laughs at the idea that anyone would call treatment - chemo.
I was on chemo for cancer 16 years ago. In my experience, Interferon was much harder for me. Comparatively, your body is going through the same thing in regards to side effects.
I agree that using the term "chemo" is a reasonable response to shut people up quickly, usually with little comeback. If you're calling out of work and constantly sick, you have to tell people something.
"Chemo" and cancer is socially acceptable and comprehendible; hepC not so much.
I just took two advils - I think I'm going out on disability now guys. Bye.
Anyway look at someone who has done transplant - all those chemicals, antirejection drugs whatever (sorry I'm sort of ignorant about that thank God).........I've never heard of any one of them whine that they were on chemo and certainly they'd have more right than most of us.
Look at someone with MS on interferon you don't hear them saying they are on chemo. My cousin says interferon (in addition to a bunch of other stuff I don't know about).
My brother in law was on interferon for a year because he was diagnosed with cancer, melanoma to be exact. Unfortunately the interferon didn't do what they had hoped and his cancer spread forcing him into full cancer chemotherapy. Trust me, I've had many conversations with him about treatment and he said interferon therapy was a walk in the park compared to his cancer treatment and this guy didn't need his symptoms or feelings validated.
Even though it has nothing to do with the initial thread... What is wrong with people wanting their feelings validated anyhow? We are VALID PEOPLE. We show people that we care about them when we validate what they are dealing with. We show that we think we are superior when we degrade people for having weaknesses, which in my opinion is the HUGEST WEAKNESS of all.
Oh brother, now we're talking about denigration? I'm sorry, I don't follow you. Validate what you wish, I have no vested interest either way and if you feel slighted I will be more than happy to wish you well moving forward with your chemotherapy.
For people like Trinity, Bill and I who have done much more than 48 weeks of treatment, to validate for the new members what is true and what is a gross exaggeration of dramatics - should not denigrate anyones feelings.
Fortunately for me, I am able to just say "oh I didn't know that, sorry I was wrong" and move forward with my life. I've done it PLENTY of times in here in the past almost five years. When someone points out something to me, because they are more knowledgable than I am, I appreciate learning and thus become more informed myself. It doesn't take away any validation - it just teaches me something and in fact when you think about it - actually gives me MORE validation because my facts are now CORRECT.
You should try and think of it that way. You've been on here a few weeks now and learned a lot. Don't you want to learn more from those who have the knowledge to share?
I was speaking for all of us who are in the middle of tx NOW, and feeling the effects today... not remembering them from years ago.
Yes, WE are the ones that need validating. I imagine you needed it when you were doing tx too. If you want to validate cancer patients, go to a cancer site. I bet you would find people complaining there too, because that is what a forum is for.
If you think only people who are currently treating need validation in life because they have it the hardest - then I suggest you really look around at what is going on in the world today and realize that the people who keep this forum moving forward and have given time and energy for YEARS to help new people - might have a lot more problems than just being a bit anemic and feeling poorly. Be careful for what you wish, you'd never want to walk a mile in either Trin or my shoes.
Perhaps it's time to add a good AD - I don't mean that snarkily but perhaps it will help for you to relax and look at the bigger picture.
and feeling the effects today... not remembering them from years ago. "
By the way if you assume that these feelings are going to go away - you might be very, very disappointed. There are plenty of folks who years later will let you know just how well inteferon has treated them.
The only one complaining is you Diane. You are given the opportunity NOW to say and feel what you like just as we did when we were treating. Just because we didn't require the same validation you do and disagree doesn't mean you are being slighted or degraded.
I think you loose focus of the fact that it's not all about the NOW aspect of treatment or how bad the side effects are NOW. This disease is multifaceted and it comes with it's own set of problems pre, during and post treatment and that's the WE is all about on a hepc forum.
My wife has an education in biology and I've been pestering her ever since I got into this stuff about a year ago when I started treatment. The best book is "Molecular Cell Biology" by Lodish and others. She found the course challenging because of the chemistry involved so some background in science would be extremely useful. I found my biology knowledge was too rusty to just dive into the text without a lot of tangents, but this one book has been the keystone to my education about the subject.
We are closing this thread. It is an endless debate, and it's a moot point anyway as Diane (or anyone) can call it whatever they want to.
It would probably help to remember that everyone is different, and some will struggle more with some aspects of an illness than others will. That doesn't make anyone right or wrong - just different. Disagreeing with someone doesn't make someone right or wrong, either.
This thread was more about figuring out what to tell people if someone isn't comfortable with explaining hep C and finding ways to justify calling it chemo without actually lying. MedHelp is not just about info, but also about support. You can't be supportive if you are picking each other apart, and that goes for most of the people that posted here.
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