How Lupus & Chemotherapy Go Hand- In- Hand

Lupus affects each individual differently, and the severity of the disease differs from case to case. I am fully aware that knowledge is power and have taken that as an opportunity to learn everything there is to know about Lupus. I am continuously seeking advice from sufferers, always searching for support groups, and never ceasing to be more involved.

Wednesday I joined a Facebook page called Patients Like Me. From the looks of it, the page seemed to be geared towards individuals mingling with one another and sharing their experiences regarding diseases alike. This page serves as a common denominator, allowing these people to compare treatments, symptoms and experiences, all while giving and receiving support to improve their lives and the lives of others.

As I began scrolling, viewing pictures and reading comments, I stumbled across a group of women who had mentioned undergoing Chemotherapy. A few of who were currently being treated. I recently posted something on my page regarding Selena Gomez, a singer who is also being treated for Lupus via chemo-therapeutics, and it got me thinking.

I understand that lupus can be an extremely severe disease, but is cancer-fighting drugs to treat it really needed? Is there an alternative effective method? The use of chemotherapy medications for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), is already familiar to people with this autoimmune disease though. While chemotherapy drugs can be used to treat both cancer and lupus, the two conditions are indefinitely unrelated.

Lupus is not cancer! There is a lot of misconception throughout the community that lupus is cancer solely because it deals with one’s immune system and the abnormality of one’s cells. When you have lupus, what happen is the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells. One’s skin, joints, blood, kidneys, and a few other organs can be, and often they do, become affected. When the organ damage is severe enough, lupus can be deemed potentially fatal.

Lupus can profoundly impact a person’s life.

Chemotherapy, or cancer-fighting drugs, is one of the few options for the treatment of Lupus. These are options simply for two reasons. ONE, because it slows down one’s erratic immune system, and TWO, because lupus treatment otherwise is scarce. Utilization of chemo-therapeutics is the result of the few drugs to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

  Bottles of chemo-             therapeutics for injection

However, one drug has been approved. Belimumab, also known by its brand name Benlysta, was developed specifically for lupus back in 2011. Even with the introduction of this new drug, lupus-specific medications are still few and not readily at the disposal of most doctors. And as a result, they have no choice but to turn to the already approved cancer-fighting drugs that target the underlying cause of lupus. Chemotherapy drugs  are said to suppress the immune system.

    A bottle of Methotrexate

If one is subjected to the use of chemotherapy for treatment, how much should they be given?

Usually, lower doses of chemo-therapeutic drugs are often used for lupus. One common chemotherapy drug used to treat lupus is methotrexate. I am quite familiar with the drug, as my former doctor attempted to place me on it when I was initially diagnosed.

However, for those of you unaware of what it is, Methotrexate was originally developed to treat cancer. It’s normally injected into a vein or put directly into the fluid around the brain during treatment, but for patients with rheumatologic diseases, it is typically given in pill form and in much lower doses. Doctors tend to use this drug much differently though, when treating autoimmune disease such as lupus.

Treatments for lupus really depend on which organs are affected and how severely.

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