Chemotherapy is a drug treatment option that uses strong chemicals to kill rapidly growing cells in the system. It is mostly used to treat cancer since tumour cells grow and proliferate much faster than most cells in the body.
There are several types of chemotherapy drugs available that can be used single or in combination to treat different types of cancers. Although chemotherapy is considered an effective mode of treatment for most types of cancer, it also poses a risk of side effects. While a few side effects are mild and moderate, and others can result in serious complications.
Purpose Of The Test
Generally, chemotherapy is used to kill tumours cells in people suffering from cancer. There are different kinds of situations in which chemotherapy may be used in people with cancer:
To cure cancer without the need for other treatments, where chemotherapy can be used as the main form of cancer treatment.
Post other treatments to fight other hidden cancer cells, where chemotherapy is given after surgery to kill any tumour cells that may stay in the body. This treatment mode is called adjuvant therapy.
To prepare patients for other treatments like radiation and surgery, where chemotherapy is used to shrink tumours, and this is called neoadjuvant therapy.
To mitigate the signs and symptoms. Chemotherapy may offer relief from signs and symptoms of cancer by killing some of the tumour cells and this is called palliative chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy For Conditions Other Than Cancer
A few chemotherapy drugs have shown beneficial in treating other conditions like
Bone Marrow Disease: Chemotherapy is mostly used to prepare for a bone marrow transplant.
Immune system disorders. Mild doses of chemotherapy drugs can be useful to control an overactive immune system in conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
How To Prepare?
Preparation for chemotherapy chiefly depends on the drugs the patient receives and the way of administration. Specific instructions would be given by the healthcare provider to prepare for the treatments, which include:
Undergo certain blood works and procedures to ensure the body is ready to receive chemotherapy. Blood tests to monitor the functioning of kidney, liver, and heart tests to check cardiac health can assess whether the patient is ready for the therapy.
Your doctor may recommend you visit the dentist to check your teeth for any signs of infection, as treating existing infections may reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
Plan well ahead for side effects to expect during and after chemotherapy and make necessary arrangements. For example, if chemotherapy treatment will cause infertility, then the patient may consider options for preserving the sperm or eggs for future use. Also, plan for head covering if chemotherapy will cause hair loss.
A surgical device will be inserted before intravenous chemotherapy into a vein like a catheter, port, or pump. Chemotherapy drugs are administered through this device.
The patient would be asked to have a light meal beforehand in case chemotherapy medications cause nausea
Have a family member or friend accompany you for the first chemotherapy sessions, as medications may make you drowsy or cause other side effects.
What To Expect?
The healthcare provider will choose the type of chemotherapy drugs the patient will be getting based on various factors including:
- Type of cancer
- Stage of cancer
- Overall health status
- Previous cancer treatments
- Individual goals and choice
How Chemotherapy Drugs Are Administered?
Chemotherapy drugs are administered in different ways including:
Chemotherapy Infusions: Chemotherapy is most often provided as an infusion into a vein, where the drugs can be injected via inserting a tube with a needle into a vein in the arm or into a device in a vein in the chest region.
Chemotherapy Pills: Chemotherapy drug can be taken in pill or capsule form.
Chemotherapy Shots: The drugs can be injected with a needle, just as you would receive a shot.
Chemotherapy Creams: Creams or gels containing chemotherapy drugs can be applied to the skin directly to treat certain types of skin cancer.
Chemotherapy drugs are used to treat one particular region of the body. For instance, chemotherapy drugs can be given directly to the abdomen, chest cavity, or central nervous system. It can also be given through the urethra into the bladder.
Chemotherapy is given directly to cancer region before or after surgery, where tumour once was. For example, thin-disk-shaped wafers comprising chemo drugs can be kept near a tumour during surgery, the wafer breaks down slowly over a period releasing drugs. Chemotherapy drugs can also be injected into a vein or artery that directly feeds a cancer cell.
How Often Chemotherapy Sessions Are Given?
Your healthcare provider determines how many sessions you need based on what drugs you will be getting, the nature of the cancer, and how well the system recovers after each session. The schedule of chemotherapy treatment varies -it can be continuous or alternate between periods of treatment and periods of rest to allow the patient to recuperate.
Well, the side effects of chemotherapy drugs can be remarkable, each drug have different side effects, and not every drug cause side effects
Common side effects of chemotherapy drugs include:
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Easy bruising
Most of these side effects can be prevented or treated and most of them settle after treatment ends.
Long-Lasting And Late-Developing Side Effects
Chemotherapy drugs can also lead to side effects that don’t become prominent until months or years after treatment these include:
- Damage to lung tissue
- Cardiac problems
- Kidney problems
- Nerve damage
- Risk of a second cancer
The patient should consult an oncologist regularly during chemotherapy treatment. Your doctor will ask about any side effects you’re experiencing and ways to control them. Other tests and scans are also taken to monitor your cancer during chemo sessions. These tests can offer your doctor an overview of how cancer is responding to treatment and modify the treatment plan accordingly.