Chemotherapy (also called chemo) is a cancer-fighting treatment that uses a powerful combination of chemicals to kill growing cancer cells.
Cancer can be considered a cluster of illnesses in which body cells develop out of control and can invade and spread to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy is a vigorous form of cancer treatment in which chemo drugs work throughout the body bringing it into the category of “systemic treatments”.
The need for chemotherapy for cancer patients and the choice of drugs depends on the following factors -
- Extent of cancer disease
- Whether there is cancer metastasis
- The overall health of the patient
Uses of chemotherapy
Cancer cells develop and divide at a very rapid rate spreading to other body parts (cancer metastasis). To stop this, chemotherapy controls the cancer cells by restricting or slowing down their growth process and even killing these cancer cells.
The chemo treatment is used to -
Chemo is used as a remedy for cancer disease. It reduces its chances of relapse and slows or stops its progress.
Relieve cancer symptoms
The chemo treatment helps reduce the size of tumours that are causing pain and other problems.
To prepare a patient for other treatments
Chemotherapy decreases the growth of a tumour to make way for other therapies, such as radiotherapy. This is known as neoadjuvant therapy.
Chemotherapy for diseases other than cancer
A few chemotherapy drugs can cure other conditions as well, such as: Low dosages of chemotherapy medicines can restrict an overactive immune system in a few illnesses, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Chemotherapy side effects
The side effects of chemotherapy may be high. Cancer medications are beneficial for killing cancer cells but they can also damage certain healthy cells in the process.
Chemotherapy side effects are as follows
- Pain from nerve damage
- Loss of memory
- Skin and nail changes
- Lack of sleep
- Low sex drive
Most of the side effects are however manageable due to the advent of new generation medications.
How chemotherapy is done?
Chemotherapy requires some preparation in advance so that it can be tolerated well by the patients and bring the best results for them.
Preparation for chemotherapy
Before proceeding with chemotherapy, the patient would be advised to take some precautions and follow specific procedures. They are:
The patient will have to undergo a few tests to check their general health. The tests include:
- Blood tests
- X-rays of the body part where cancer is present.
- Measuring weight and height to calculate the correct dose of drugs.
- A catheter or other device is surgically inserted into a large vein, generally in the patient's chest, during intravenous chemotherapy. The device is used to give chemotherapy medication.
- The oncologist's doctor may suggest a dental check-up for signs of any infection. Treating existing illnesses or disorders may reduce the risk of chemotherapy complications since chemotherapy may decrease the body's immunity.
- Talk to the oncologist's doctor about the chemotherapy side effects and what precautions are necessary.
How are chemo medications administered?
Chemotherapy drugs are generally given as an intravenous infusion (intravenously). The medicines can be administered by inserting a tube with a needle inside a vein in the arm or into a device connected to the vein placed in the chest.
The chemotherapy medicine is administered as a shot into :
- Injection below the skin - subcutaneous chemotherapy
- Injections in the muscle - Intramuscular chemotherapy
- Injections in the spine
The chemotherapy drugs are available as a cream or gels rubbed onto the patient's skin to cure cancer.
Chemotherapy can be given as capsules, pills, or liquids to swallow. This is called "oral chemotherapy.
Precautions with Chemotherapy
- Be careful about your mouth because chemotherapy causes dry mouth or sores.
- Stay away from any infections, or people with infections as chemotherapy weakens your immune system and makes you tired.
- Eat nutritious food.
- Drink clean water.
- Maintain personal hygiene.
- Avoid tobacco products, smoking and alcohol consumption.
- If you have any serious medical conditions or are experiencing symptoms, inform your oncologist.
Chemotherapy Procedure Care at Medicover Hospital
Medicover Hospitals is supported by a team of top oncologists and chemotherapists who offer customized treatment to every cancer patient. Based on unique patient case, a chemotherapy plan is designed and discussed with the patients before the initiation of the therapy. After analyzing the associated risks and treatment outcomes, the chemotherapy is done in a highly monitored environment to keep the patients comfortable while bringing the best treatment outcomes.