Sharp Blue: Blood tests


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Almost all medications have side-effects. Some medications have many side-effects, but patients experience only a subset of them (sometimes none at all!). Furthermore, lots of pairs of medications have interactions. This means that if you’re taking lots of medications and feel unwell for reasons not obviously connected directly with your illness, then there are lots of possible causes. One thing that I’ve learned recently is that cancer patients take lots of medications. Now I’m starting to learn that hunting down the ones responsible for side-effects is much harder than one might imagine.

As I mentioned a while ago, my dad has been feeling nauseous recently. At first we thought he was making himself sick worrying about having seizures, but after a few days this seemed unlikely. The next possibility that the doctors considered was that it might be an interaction between phenytoin (his anti-seizure med) and Zoton (an anti-ulcerative). As he couldn’t cut down on phenytoin safely, they suggested he stop taking the Zoton. That didn’t help at all - in fact if anything it made him worse. Eventually, my mum phoned the oncologist who ordered some blood tests, thinking that it might be an elevated blood calcium level. Today, the results of the tests arrived. They showed a normal calcium level (which is good, because otherwise he’d have to take even more medications) and normal renal and hepatic function; and no sign of cancer (which isn’t a surprise because the cancer wasn’t detected by last summer’s battery of blood tests). Now, the oncologist’s theory is that dexamethasone (the anti-inflammatory he’s taking to reduce swelling in his brain and back) is having an effect on his stomach lining, so they’ve put him back on Zoton. They switch his medications around so quickly it makes me dizzy!

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