Adriamycin is an intravenous form of chemotherapy, usually given once a week. Low white blood count is the main negative side effect of this particular chemo. Because white blood cells are responsible for preventing and combatting illness, when our white blood count gets too low our body can become dangerously susceptible to infection. The medical community takes this very seriously, as patients can sometimes die from something as simple as a common cold that spirals out of control due to a patient’s lack of resources to fight it. Neupogen shots are often prescribed to deal with this side effect. These shots help the body rapidly build white blood cells, but the result is very short lived if you continue chemotherapy.

The other unpleasant side effect of Adriamycin is hair loss. This is temporary, with the hair growing back once treatment stops. Hair is usually lost through gradual thinning with this particular chemotherapy agent. For me, however, by about week four I had lost 95 percent of my hair.

The goal of treatment with Adriamycin is to reduce tumor load. The challenging part is minimizing the negative impact of the drug. Close monitoring through weekly blood tests can help ensure that patients and doctors make appropriate choices regarding treatment. Factors relevant to treatment often fluctuate, so it’s important to be flexible and have patience, since treatment regimens may change frequently—as mine did. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a break to allow the body more time to recover before resuming treatment. If the negative side effects cannot be managed, doctors might suggest trying a different chemotherapy agent or a brand new strategy.

For Further Exploration:

General Information on Adriamycin

Back to Stages of Treatment—Stage Seven


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