Cancer patients are not well served by Fern Schumer Chapman's Opinion, "My Friend With Cancer Needs a Joint" {Nov. 17}.

Nausea and vomiting are side effects from chemotherapy treatments that need to be discussed openly and honestly with the patient's cancer specialist doctor or nurse. Embarrassing as it is to talk about these issues with them, it is essential that the patient's doctor or nurse be aware of any side effects the patient experiences from chemotherapy treatments.

My doctor prescribed a medication for me called Compazine that eliminated my great difficulties with nausea, vomiting and anorexia during my six months of chemotherapy. I worked with my doctor to determine the best dosage and timing for making the medication most effective. Danette G. Kauffman

Washington

Chimpanzees as Organ Donors

In his article "Twenty Years of Heart Transplants" {Medical Technology, Dec. 1}, Larry Thompson regards the primate-to-human heart transplants as "heroic surgery," experiments that he judges to be successful and a possible solution to the organ donor shortage.

Transplanting the hearts of chimpanzees and baboons into human patients is neither heroic nor successful, unless of course you define success as the number of hours a patient is able to survive after a xenotransplant. Using primates as "spare parts" reservoirs for humans will not resolve the organ donor crisis. In the unlikely event of a success, it would merely reshuffle priorities -- those with primate hearts as bridges displacing those without. The chimpanzees are endangered -- fewer than 100,000 exist in the wild, and only 1,600 exist in captivity. How can one species which numbers in the mere thousands be used to serve another species numbering in the billions?

Mr. Thompson reports that success in human-to-human transplantation has allowed surgeons to become more aggressive; yet it appears that these successes have also allowed surgeons to become overly confident, even reckless in their surgical ventures. The transplant team at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City has recently proposed up to six chimpanzee-to-human heart transplants, a costly and risky experiment that is guaranteed to deliver false hopes and dead bodies. {A review panel at the hospital recently withheld approval for the project.} Has the transplant field become so hungry for recognition and attention that it must attempt these bizarre experiments without considering ethical and moral questions? Carol F. Helstosky

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Washington

Distorting Statistics

Anne Dawson's letter {Dec. 8}, continuing your attack on the NRA's defense of a woman's right to defend herself from a rapist, is a good example both of using statistics to lie and of trying to change the meaning of a statistic by citing it with shock.

If 43 percent of rapes involve non-strangers, as her data (based on the 1985 victimization surveys) suggest, then a majority of rapes are -- just as was depicted in the NRA ad -- committed by strangers. If women wish to have guns concealed in what Ms. Dawson calls "social situations" for the 43 percent of rapes by non-strangers, that is their right; a woman has the right to defend herself from rape whether the rapist is a stranger or not. Most of us have been in social settings with women who may have been armed and have not been either concerned or inhibited -- but then, we weren't planning to commit rapes, either.

Ms. Dawson next reports that 30.1 percent of rapists are "armed" and a woman with a gun would have the edge in weaponry. But her statement is simply false. Only 20 percent of rapists are armed; of those, 30.1 percent -- that is, 6.1 percent or, as Ms. Dawson might put it, fully one-sixteenth -- are armed with a gun. The rapist's weapon of choice is the knife. A gun-owning woman would thus be better armed than her assailant in 94 percent of attempted rapes -- which is why the Justice Department's victimization surveys show that attempted rapes against women who use a weapon for protection almost never are completed. Women should be free to choose whether or not they want to have a means for effective protection from rapes or other violent crimes. Paul H. Blackman, PhD Research Coordinator National Rifle Association Washington

Facing Menopause, Frankly

Unlike last week's letter writers, I didn't consider "35 and Counting" {Cover Story, Dec. 1} unnecessary, demeaning, or tasteless. On the contrary, women and their physiology are at last being discussed frankly and without condescention. What is demeaning or mocking about being intelligently informed about a physiological event that will be faced by all women?

I am a healthy, involved woman of 47 and I appreciated the article immensly and look forward to more of the same -- please. Nancijoy Weissman Rockville Letters intended for publication must be signed and include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Letters may be edited. Although we are unable to acknowledge all letters, we appreciate the time and value the viewpoints of those who write. Send letters to Health Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.