The primary risk of induction therapy is the numerous side effects that the patient may face, depending on his or her reaction to treatment. Although there are other medical areas that use the terminology induction therapy, this treatment is primarily associated with the initial step of a long-term cancer treatment. Reduction of cancer cells is generally done through several phases and this particular therapy is usually performed first. Two common procedures that take place during induction therapy are immunology and chemotherapy, which may be performed together or separately depending on the patient's diagnosis.
Results of induction therapy are generally the basis for progressing to other therapies including consolidation therapy followed by maintenance therapy. Mild risks include flu-like symptoms including muscle aches, cold sweats, fever, and fatigue. Most of the mild symptoms can be treated immediately and usually are not a cause for concern. Due to the effects that this treatment may have on the immune system, the patient may have an increased risk for infection. Some infections may be treated with antibiotics which may also prevent further complications.
Vomiting and nausea are two of the most common effects caused by induction therapy, though there are anti-emetic medications that can suppress most of these symptoms. Patients who are at risk of an allergic reaction to some of the medications during treatment may experience swollen tongue or throat, rash or hives, and excess fluid which may cause tissue to swell. Depending on the patient's allergic reaction to treatment, medications may be changed or treatment may be discontinued until alternative treatment can be provided.
There are cases where some patients may be at greater risk for severe or permanent side effects including irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and damage to internal organs. Some of the areas of the body that may be affected are the sensory nerves and the heart. In rare cases, treatment may increase the risk of having cancer develop elsewhere at a later time. Another risk for induction therapy patients is hair loss and although this is a cosmetic problem, it can cause emotional distress for some patients.
This therapy represents the initial phase in cancer treatment, so most risks are mild and treatable. A medical professional usually monitors a patient's response to therapy and treats his or her side effects accordingly. During diagnosis, a physician may be able to determine if the risks outweigh the benefits of therapy.