What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a type of treatment used in treating cancer. It is used to destroy cancer cells. In other cases, chemotherapy drugs suppress cancer cells, destroy them or reduce their rate of spreading. These drugs are well known as anticancer drugs.
What Does a Chemotherapy do?
Before you think of undergoing chemotherapy, it is important to understand what a chemotherapy does. Here are some functions of chemotherapy.
- Controlling the cancer- The treatment helps in controlling the cancer by working on its cells. This is by slowing down the growth rate of the cancer cells, reducing the rate of spreading to the rest of the body or by killing the cells to ensure no infection is spread.
- To cure cancer- Curing of cancer is viewed in different ways as compared to other infections. When no cancer cells are observed, the patient is cured. Chemotherapy can be used to destroy cancer cells to this point.
- Relieving of symptoms- Cancer is known to cause very disturbing symptoms the most common being pain. Chemotherapy reduces the size of tumor thus decreasing the amount of pain felt by the patient.
How Chemotherapy Works
The main purpose of chemotherapy is mostly cancer. Cancer is a condition where cells in the body start growing and multiplying without any control. Once this happens, the patient starts having tumors which cause pain in different parts of the body.
Chemotherapy mostly makes use of anticancer cells. These cells aim to destroy cancer cells in the body to help slow down or stop the growth of these cells.
During chemotherapy, one may also undergo combination chemotherapy. This is where two or more types of drugs are administered at the same time. This is because different chemotherapy drugs function differently.
However, chemotherapy can be a recurrent procedure. This is done when there is a need to prevent the recurrence of cancer.
How is Chemotherapy Administered?
Chemotherapy can be given in different ways depending on the type of cancer you have. However, this may also depend on the type of drugs that are being used at that time. Some of the drugs used in chemotherapy can function for different types of cancer.
- Intra-arterial (IA)- It is a chemotherapy done by administering the drug directly through the artery from which the cancer is feeding.
- Intravenous (IV)- The chemotherapy is administered directly through the vein.
- Injection- This is done in certain parts of the body. In most cases it involves the thigh, leg, belly, arm muscle or the hip.
- Intraperitoneal (IP)- This is administered directly through the peritoneal. This is a part or region of the body where organs such as liver, ovaries, intestines and stomach are found.
- Orally- When chemotherapy has to be done orally, you will be required to take in capsules, liquids or pills.
- Topically- It is made in the form of a cream. You are required to rub it on your skin.
Preparation for Chemotherapy
It is important to note that there are several preparatory procedures involved before undergoing chemotherapy. These preparations vary from health, mental and lifestyle.
You are supposed to change some things that you do before undergoing chemotherapy. This is important since it helps to prevent any complications during and after the treatment. Some of these things include:
- Avoiding contact with many people. This is necessary to prevent any infections. When you approach chemotherapy, you should be free of infections that may interrupt the process.
- Healthy eating. This means taking a well-balanced diet. It helps to keep your body healthy and strong for chemotherapy.
- Resting. As you are about to undergo chemotherapy, you are required to have enough rest. This helps the body to relax which is important for the healing process.
- Report any underlying illnesses to a doctor before chemotherapy. There are many infections or complications of the body that can interfere with chemotherapy.
- Report any medications you take. This helps to reduce the risk of complications caused by some type of medication. A doctor will advise you on what to take and not to take.
Clinical Trials before Chemotherapy
These are also referred as research studies or cancer treatment studies. They are meant to test for new treatment methods in people with cancer. The main things tested in clinical tests are:
- New methods e.g. gene therapy
- New approaches to radiation therapy or surgery
- New drugs
- New treatment combinations
There are three stages of clinical trials where the main goal is to find better methods of cancer treatment.
Advantages of Clinical Trials
- When you undergo clinical trials, you will help other people to benefit from better cancer treatment methods.
- They provide you with improved cancer care.
- If the new approaches work, then you become the first person to benefit.
- It helps you in making a decision about your life as new methods are found.
Disadvantages of Clinical Trials
- The new methods may not work for you.
- During the study, the health insurance does not cover the patient completely.
- The new methods are mostly not as good as the existing ones.
Other Uses of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a process used in other treatment levels. These include:
- Helps in better working of both biological and radiation therapy.
- It helps in shrinking the tumor which is important before radiation therapy or surgery is performed.
- It helps in destroying the recurring cancer cells.
- It also helps in destroying the cancer cells discovered after a surgery or a radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is a treatment procedure with a lot of things to learn about. In some cases you are required to have chemotherapy on a monthly basis or at certain times of the year to reduce the risks of recurring cancer.
If there is any information about chemotherapy which you are not sure about, it is always advisable to visit a doctor for guidelines. Always follow the instructions given about chemotherapy to prevent complications.