Chemotherapy is medical arena of cancer treatment which involves various drugs to kill or limit the spread of cancer cells. The cancer cells have the tendency to grow and multiply faster than the most cells in the body. Chemotherapy drugs can be used alone or in combination with surgery and radiotherapy in treatment of various cancers. Though it is an effective way to treat cancer it also carries a risk of side effects. Some side effects are mild while some patients may experience severe complications.
Indications of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is primarily done to:
- To reduce the total number of cancer cells in your body
- Reduce current symptoms of the cancer
- To Shrink the size of the existing tumour
- To prevent spread of cancer
- To reduce or limit the bulk of the cancer in patients when no other treatment options are available( also known as palliative Chemotherapy)
Chemotherapy is also done to prepare you for further treatment, like reduce the size of tumour so radiation and surgery ( per operative chemotherapy ) are possible to control the cancer
In case of advanced stages of cancer chemotherapy is done to relieve the pain.
At times chemotherapy is performed after the surgery to make sure that remaining cancer cells or the cancer cells which are not visible in investigations (micro metastasis) are also controlled.
Besides cancer it can be done to treat other diseases like bone marrow diseases and immune system disorders.
Side effects of Chemotherapy
Along with the cancer cells the cells in other area that divide quickly can also be affected and they include:
- Lining of your intestinal track
Because of which one may experience other side effects like
- Mouth sores
- Dry mouth
- Easy bruising and excessive bleeding
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea, vomiting,
- 10.Weight Loss
- 12.Skin Changes
- 13.Infections (immunosuppressive medications make body prone to infections)
It’s important that this side effects can be dealt with appropriate guidance by your cancer specialists or clinician as they help you manage them medications and lifestyle changes. The better chemotherapy drugs and medications to reduce the side effect of the drugs are available which enhance patients adherence to chemotherapy regimes.
Most of the side effects subside after the treatment, but there is a risk of developing long lasting effects which include damage to major body organs.
How Chemotherapy is performed?
- Chemotherapy is typically given in the form of pill or through injections or IV into veins.
- Chemotherapy can be delivered directly into the tumour depending upon the tumour’s location.
- Skin cancers can be treated with medications
- Specific parts of the body like uterus, liver, cervix, chest, bladder and nervous system can be delivered chemotherapy through localised treatment.
- If chemotherapy is done through pills or cream it can be done at home while invasive chemotherapy procedures are performed at hospitals at Cancer treatment units.
- Chemotherapy schedule is a planned according to cancer stage, performance status( according to the patients general health) of the patients with their response and tolerance to various drug regimes
How Well Chemotherapy works?
The chances of getting cured through chemotherapy depends upon multiple factors which include
- Type of the Cancer ( morphology of the cancer cells)
- Stage of the cancer
- Organ involved in cancer
- Age of the patient
- Tolerance of the patient to chemotherapy treatment
- Response of the cancer cells to chemotherapy regime.
- Physiological status of the patient
What to Expect After Chemotherapy?
Your healthcare team will regularly monitor the effectiveness of the treatment. Talk to your clinician and supporting members of the team about how you feel after each session.The treatment will be altered accordingly. Also, various blood test and imaging techniques are used to check the effectiveness of the drug regime.
You will be advised to drink a lot of fluid after your chemotherapy, this helps the body to prevent from dehydration and improves the circulation of drug through your body. Hydration remains also important as occasionally patients will experience nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy also affects your immune system so avoid catching infections from individuals with flu and cold to avoid infections. It is highly important the good nutrition of the patients to revive their immune system. Talking to there family and friends and encouraging the cancer patients to fight their cancer is important.
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