Corticosteroids, or steroids, can be used as part of cancer treatment, to help with side effects of treatment, or even as part of a pain management program in cancer patients. They are extremely useful and adaptable treatments that may be used in a number of situations and for a wide range of ailments. However, there are some adverse effects to be aware of, as with any drug. Steroids, for example, can have both short- and long-term negative effects, as well as alter your mood.
What Are steroids and How Do They Work?
Steroids are molecules produced by the endocrine glands in our bodies, which play a significant role in the regulation of biological activities.
The following are a few of them:
• The body’s water and salt content are regulated;
• Body temperature regulation;
• Blood pressure control is important;
• Fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism;
• Inflammation management;
• Defending against infection;
• Stress response regulation.
Which Steroids Are Used to Treat Cancer?
We generally think of muscle-bound sportsmen or weightlifters when we think of people who use steroids-usa. Recreational anabolic steroids, such as the ones discussed above, are not commonly used in cancer treatment.
Corticosteroids are the most common steroids used for cancer patients. Corticosteroids are hormones produced naturally by the adrenal glands, which are tiny endocrine glands located directly above the kidneys.
These are some examples of steroid types:
• Cortef (hydrocortisone) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands;
• Prednisone (deltasone);
• Prelone (prednisolone) is a kind of prednisolone;
• Decadron (dexamethasone) is a kind of dexamethasone;
• Medrol (methylprednisolone) is a kind of steroid.
These drugs are frequently taken orally or injected intravenously when used to treat cancer (for other conditions they may also be part of a topical preparation, injected into joints, or inhaled via a nasal or bronchial inhaler).
The corticosteroid converter can be used to compare the dosages of these medications.
Steroids are used in cancer treatment for a variety of reasons
Corticosteroids are utilized in the treatment of cancer for a variety of reasons. This can be perplexing, so question your oncologist about the exact aim of the medication you’ve been prescribed. Corticosteroids are frequently used as part of a multi-drug treatment program for blood cancers or hematologic malignancies.
Many treatment regimens for lymphoproliferative diseases, such as lymphoma, have included corticosteroids. Reports of the action of steroids on lymphoid tissue date back to the 1950s, and large-dose steroid therapy was first utilized to treat advanced-stage lymphomas and leukemias at the time. Today, a combination of CHOP plus rituximab, a monoclonal antibody, is recommended for intermediate and high-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma—and the “P” in CHOP stands for prednisone, a corticosteroid.
Following is a list of some of the potential uses of corticosteroids in cancer patients:
• To reduce the risk of an allergic reaction to a blood product or drug – Steroids (together with antihistamines and other drugs) are routinely used to prevent allergic responses. Allergies are frequent with several chemotherapy medicines, such as Taxol (paclitaxel). Rituximab, a form of targeted therapy used to treat blood malignancies, causes a lot of allergic responses. As a prophylactic strategy, steroids are frequently given at the same time as these drugs.
• To assist reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting – Steroids are frequently used in conjunction with other drugs to prevent or treat nausea, much as they are with allergic reactions.
• To stimulate appetite – We typically think of weight reduction as a benefit in our weight-conscious world. However, because cancer cachexia—a set of symptoms that includes unintended weight loss and muscle wasting—is responsible for roughly 20% of cancer deaths, it’s vital to address issues like loss of appetite in cancer patients.
• As part of your chemo treatment plan.
• To lower inflammatory levels.
• To alleviate discomfort.
• To treat allergic responses on the skin.
• To treat advanced cancer-related shortness of breath.
• When cancer spreads to the brain, it is used to minimize swelling (with brain metastases).
• To minimize swelling in myeloma and other malignancies that have migrated to the bones – Spinal cord compression is a common consequence of myeloma and other cancers that have gone to the bones (bone metastases).
• To treat a blockage in the superior vena cava (a complication of cancer).
• To aid in the treatment of intestinal blockage (as a complication of cancer).
• After a stem cell transplant, to treat graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
Cortisol and the Stress Response: What You Need to Know
It’s useful to explore how “natural” steroids work in the body and the importance of utilizing these medications only as advised in order to comprehend how steroids might be utilized for cancer patients.
A signal is delivered to the pituitary gland, a tiny endocrine gland in the brain, when our bodies are stressed, whether physically or emotionally. A hormone termed adrenocorticotropic hormone is released by the pituitary gland (ACTH). The adrenal glands (small endocrine glands that lie on top of the kidneys) then release cortisol, a “natural steroid,” in response to ACTH.
Cortisol is involved in stress management through regulating inflammation, responding to infection, and a variety of other tasks. ranging from blood pressure management to blood sugar management
Synthetic steroids developed by pharmaceutical companies work similarly to cortisol. These potent drugs have a wide range of applications in medicine, including the treatment of blood cancers such leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, as well as solid cancers.
Steroid Adverse Effects
When steroids are taken at higher doses and for longer periods of time, the side effects are usually more severe. If you’re learning about the side effects, you might be perplexed because the negative effects people experience early on when taking these medications are frequently the polar opposite of the long-term bad effects. On steroids, you may experience more energy at first, but you may also experience weakness in the long run.
This can be explained by understanding “feedback loops” in the body’s natural hormone production. Knowing about “feedback loops” will also help you comprehend why, if you’ve been taking these drugs for a long period, you shouldn’t suddenly stop taking them or reduce your dose.
When you first start taking these pharmaceuticals (hormones), you might think of them as “supplementing” your body’s natural production of corticosteroids. Your body eventually recognizes that you’re getting all of the corticosteroids you need from pills or intravenous injections, and it sends a message to stop making your own natural corticosteroids. If you suddenly stop taking these pills, you will not only lose your prescription, but it may take a long time for your body to comprehend that it needs to create its own corticosteroids again.
The following are examples of short-term adverse effects (side effects that develop early or when steroids are used for a short amount of time):
• Insomnia – There are a variety of causes of sleeplessness in cancer patients, but the insomnia caused by steroids, particularly those given during chemotherapy, can be particularly severe.
• Allergic reactions – Despite the fact that steroids are frequently used to treat allergic reactions, some persons may experience an allergic reaction to them.
• Confusion and delirium are possible side effects of narcotic pain drugs, especially in persons with terminal cancer.
The following are examples of long-term steroid adverse effects:
• Immune suppression and infections – Steroids alone can cause immune suppression, which can be severe when combined with bone marrow suppression caused by cancer or chemotherapy. This can make you more susceptible to infection or make infections worse.
• Weight increase – People who take steroids for a long time sometimes develop “moon facies,” a condition in which additional fat accumulates on the side of the face.
• Deficiency (especially proximal muscle weakness).
• Mood swings or psychosis (see below).
• Stomach ulcers and gastritis – People on steroids are sometimes given a prescription drug to help prevent ulcers.
• Blood pressure that is too high.
• Sleep disruptions.
• Elevated blood sugar (particularly crucial if you’re diabetic) – It’s very uncommon for a person to become “temporarily” diabetic and require insulin treatment when high dosages of steroids are administered (steroid-induced diabetes).
• Osteoporosis (brittle bones) – Even short-term usage of steroids can lead to considerable bone loss, increasing the risk of fractures.
• Water and salt retention cause swollen hands and feet.
Depending on a person’s clinical circumstances, some side effects may be beneficial or harmful. Increased hunger and weight growth, for example, may be advantageous in cancer patients who are underweight.
Taking your prescription with food can help with some of the digestive issues that steroids can induce. You may also want to take these medications earlier in the day so that they don’t interfere with your sleep at night.
Your oncologist, nurse, or pharmacist can often advise you with techniques to help control or decrease these side effects, just as they can with many other pharmaceutical side effects.
If you have any symptoms or side effects, make sure to tell your healthcare professional.
Important Points to Consider When Using Steroids
Steroids, like most cancer therapy medications, must be used exactly as prescribed by your healthcare professional. Before you start taking steroids, here are some important questions to ask your doctor:
• How long should I expect to be on this medication?
• If I have a serious reaction to this drug, who should I contact?
• What if I forget to take a dose? (Do not simply increase your drug dosage.)
• What happens if I puke up my medicine?
• What are the most common side effects you experience with this drug, both short-term and long-term?
Steroids could be considered the unsung heroes of cancer treatment in several regards. Steroids work quietly behind the scenes, preventing and minimizing complications and even making other therapies work better. While chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and especially the newer targeted therapies and immunotherapy get all the attention for killing cancer, steroids work quietly behind the scenes, preventing and minimizing complications and even making other therapies work better. As a result, they are important in the treatment of both blood malignancies and solid tumors.
However, these medications have a slew of immediate and long-term negative effects, some of which are dangerous. Make sure to ask questions and discuss any symptoms you’re having, even if they’re “only” fatigue. In your cancer treatment, be your own advocate.