Chemotherapy treatment is a specialized treatment where aggressive chemical drugs are administered to the cancer patient so that the cancer cells in the body are stopped from growing and killed. This is one of the most widely adopted treatments to curb cancer cell growth thereby successfully treating cancer patients. Chemotherapy treatment uses a huge range of chemical/anti-cancer drugs, but how it affects the patients may highly depend on the stage of cancer. Chemotherapy treatment is many times performed on a patient using a combination of other cancer treatments, like cancer surgery, radiotherapy, or hormonal therapy. The combination that is chosen depends on the following factors:
• the type and stage/intensity of cancer
• Overall health
• The effectiveness of earlier cancer treatments
• A site of the cancer
• Patient's own personal choice for cancer treatment
Most of the types, after cancer surgery is performed, the surgeon may highly recommend a chemotherapy treatment in order to kill the lingering cancer cells, in case there are any. Sometimes the doctor may first use a chemotherapy treatment to shrink the tumor and then perform the cancer surgery.
In other cases, chemotherapy treatment is also used to relieve pain. However, the main uses of chemotherapy treatment are:
• Curb and kill the cancer cells in your body
• Avoid the possibility of spreading of cancer
• To shrink the size of tumor
• To bring down the symptoms of the cancer
• Injection: In this type of chemotherapy treatment, the anti-cancer drugs are administered via an injection into body muscle which can be at the thigh, arm or hip, thigh or in the fatty muscles present in your arm, stomach or leg.
• Intra-arterial (IA): In this method, the drugs are discharged directly into the bloodstream or the artery which is feeding cancer, via equipment like a catheter (thin tube) or a needle.
• Intraperitoneal (IP): The drugs discharged at the peritoneal cavity, which covers the body organs like the liver, stomach, intestines, or ovaries.
• Intravenous (IV): The anticancer drugs are discharged goes directly into a vein.
• Topical: The drugs are in the form of the cream which is rubbed on the body.
• Oral: You have to swallow a pill or liquid which contains the drugs.
Before starting the chemotherapy treatment procedure, you and doctor must work out to determine which would be the best type of chemotherapy treatment that you may undertake to treat cancer you are suffering from. Most commonly, chemotherapy treatment is carried out in the form of a pill form or directly into veins by injection or an IV. The location of the treatment will depend on the type of chemotherapy treatment that you will choose. For example, if you will be going for the topical treatment, i.e. rubbing creams or pills on the body, you can give yourself treatments at home. However, most of the other chemotherapy procedures may be generally carried out at a hospital or a cancer treatment centre. The doctor will customize the chemotherapy schedule for you that will depend on the frequency of the chemotherapy treatments. This will be further improvised once the doctor observes if your body is able to handle the aggressive drug treatment, depending on which the frequency of the chemotherapy treatment will be increased or decreased.
One must be well informed that chemotherapy treatment can often have adverse effects on the body. However, these side effects of chemotherapy are manageable. The side effects depend highly on the type and the intensity of the chemotherapy treatment which can range from mild to severe. Some people may not show any adverse effects.
1. Nausea: About 70 per cent of patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment have to face this side effect. The doctor maybe prescribe anti-emetic drugs to curb the nausea
2. Hair Loss (Alopecia): Another very common side effect of chemotherapy treatment is the thinning of hair, which may eventually result in huge hair loss. This side effect starts to come down on the body just after a first few treatments of the chemotherapy. Cancer patients who are not comfortable with a bald scalp may turn to a wig or other suitable covering.
3. Hearing Impairment: Due to the toxicity present in drugs which kills the cancer cells, sometimes it may cause hearing problems.
4. Fatigue: Another common side effect, fatigue is often something a cancer patient encounters after the chemotherapy treatment.
5. Susceptibility to Infections: During the chemotherapy treatment, along with the cancer cells, some white blood cells (WBC) are also killed due to the high dosage of the chemical drugs. The low count of WBC's in the body may result in a loss of immunity which may allow your body to catch infections soon as there are less WBC's to fight it.
6. Low Platelet Count/Bleeding Problems: Due to chemotherapy, the platelet count in the body may also go down. Due to this, there can be blood clotting problems.
7. Anaemia: After chemotherapy treatment, due to the drop in the red blood cells in the body which are responsible for transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, anaemia (mild to severe) can be caused.
8. Loss of Appetite: Not just cancer, but chemotherapy can bring down the body's metabolism, which can lead to a severe loss in appetite until the body doesn't recover fully.
9. Bowel problems: When the body cells are killed, the body may suffer bowel problems which can result in diarrhoea or constipation.
10. Fertility Problems: During the chemotherapy treatment, patients often lose interest in sex. The libido returns only after the treatment is complete.