Chemotherapy is an advanced cancer treatment in which several medications are used to kill cancer cells. There are many different types of chemotherapy medication, but the main principal of them doesn't change. They basically stop cancer cells reproducing and multiplying, which intercepts them from growing and spreading in the body. Chemotherapy can be used for various types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and many others.
As still many patients look for information on chemotherapy in cancer specialists’ offices or on the internet, here we have aimed to prepare a guide including answers to the common questions of this topic.
What does chemotherapy do?
It destroys cancer cells. Chemotherapy treatments main advantage is not only focusing on the main location of the tumor but also attacking cancer cells located in different parts of the patient's body. Various types of cancer like liver cancer or prostate cancer may develop very quickly and spreads to other organs without showing any sign. With chemotherapy procedure, all of them can be destroyed within one cancer treatment.
However, it depends on the types of cancer and the patient's health. Still, the success of the chemotherapy procedure depends mostly on a patient's cancer stage.
What Are the Types of Chemotherapy?
There are three main types of chemotherapy. These include:
- Chemotherapy procedure focuses on curing cancer – if cancer is still curable, a cancer specialist attempts to destroy cancer cells totally through chemotherapy treatment. Giving chemo treatment has a chance of curing a person's cancer, but it has no guarantees. It usually takes many years to know if cancer is really and totally cured.
- Chemotherapy treatment for cancer control - The goal of chemotherapy may be to control the disease if the cure is not possible. In this case, chemo is used to stop the cancer cells from growing and spreading. This can lead to patients with cancer feel better and live longer.
- Palliative chemotherapy procedure – Although the primary goals of chemotherapy is to shrink tumors and to stop the growth of cancer as we mentioned above, in cases of extremely advanced cancer, the cancer specialist may use chemotherapy treatment to at least stop the development of new cancer cells or delaying cancer growth.
How Does a Chemotherapy Procedure Look Like?
Chemotherapy process may be conducted in a hospital as well as the patient’s home. Chemotherapy may take the form of a pill, an injection or even a cream. In a case of appearance of serious side effects of chemotherapy, cancer specialist will adjust the drug or its dose. During cancer treatment, your health care team usually gives treatment into your vein. This is known as intravenous chemotherapy. You can get chemotherapy as well as blood transfusions or antibiotics fluids this way. To make these processes easier, you may get a medical device called a catheter or port.
With intravesical chemotherapy procedure, the doctor puts a liquid drug into your bladder rather than giving it as a pill by mouth (oral chemotherapy) or injecting it into your vein.
Patient’s cancer specialist decides about drugs used and the timing to treat cancer. One medicine and the timing can suit pancreatic cancer; another one can fit colon cancer or other types of cancer. Another important factor in determining the right method is the patient's health condition. Cancer clinics prepare policy and procedure manual and protocols and present them to cancer patients before treatment. Some clinics also provide published or online guides or video instructions explaining the chemotherapy procedure steps to help to get ready of patients.
Is Chemotherapy Painful?
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to avoid pain in chemotherapy. It is one of the common side effects of the chemotherapy procedure. Also, as many chemotherapy drugs are given by injection, getting the needle or catheter into the vein may cause some discomfort or pain.
However, pain in chemotherapy may be treated with painkillers and other treatments.
What Are the Side Effects of Chemotherapy?
There are numerous after-effects of chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy can damage some healthy cells in the body, such as blood cells, or cells in the stomach or skin while killing cancer cells. This situation may, unfortunately, lead to a range of unpleasant side effects such as feeling tired, feeling sick and vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea or constipation, increased risk of picking up infections, a sore mouth, dry or itchy skin. Most of these side effects can be prevented, or if not, they will pass after treatment completes.
Additionally, chemotherapy process may result in appetite disorders, problems related to sexual activity and reproduction as well as affect memory and thinking processes. Finally, as it was mention in the previous paragraph, pain in chemotherapy is a common side effect.
This content is edited by Flymedi Medical Editors in April 2019.