Sunday, September 9, 2012

Advances In Nausea Control

I've been a nurse since 1983.  It's amazing some of the medical advances I've witnessed in my lifetime.  Consider the advances in treating acid reflux or peptic ulcer disease.  In the old days, I can remember giving patients an antacid such as Maalox or Mylanta every three hours (I kid you not) to allow healing of an ulcer and neutralize the acid in a patient's stomach.  I can still picture the white coating on  patients' lips who underwent this regimen.  Later, and not necessarily in order of appearance on the market, drugs like Tagamet,  Zantac, and Pepcid appeared to decrease acid production.  Another drug was subsequently developed to coat the stomach called Carafate.  Not too long after that, even better acid reducing medications like Prevacid and Nexium appeared.  Eventually, it was discovered that some ulcers were caused by a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori (known simply as H. pylori).  If H. pylori was discovered in your stomach, then you were given a course of antibiotics plus acid-reducing medications for several weeks.  So, the former days of  frequently gulping down chalky antacids were replaced by taking some pills for a few weeks.  An incredible breakthrough.

As I may have previously stated, extreme nausea was one of the worst side effects I endured while going through chemotherapy.  Frequent nausea.  Debilitating nausea leading to further fatigue and weight loss during treatments.  Consequently, most anti-nausea medications I received were of little value.  The nausea simply had to run its course.  Finally, with my last treatment, my doctor gave me a new drug called Emend which I took the day of chemotherapy and two days afterwards.  It was an expensive drug, roughly one hundred dollars a pill back then, but it totally obliterated the nausea.
I can only wonder what a difference this drug would have made if I would have taken it early on in treatment.  Perhaps the multiple hospitalizations due to dehydration could have been avoided.

Furthermore, I recently spoke to an oncologist who stated, if I understood him correctly, that nausea is not as much an issue with chemotherapy today due to advances in medical treatment.  Although some side effects of chemotherapy may be unavoidable, such as fatigue or hair loss, being able to eat and drink freely after treatments without the fear of vomiting may be the biggest medical breakthrough of them all.


No comments:

Post a Comment