How To Understand Chemotherapy

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death. Everyday, people suffer from the excruciating pain that different kinds of cancer bring. Thanks to the diverse treatments now available, more and more people are able to survive this life threatening disease. One of the most well-known treatments to this disease is chemotherapy. It has been used in treating liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer and other cancer types. But what is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Each drug may have a particular effect. This is why these are combined together to get the desired effect needed. The chemicals can also affect the healthy cells. The difference in the effect on cancer cells and healthy cells is that the former are destroyed once they get into contact with the chemicals whereas the latter are only damaged and eventually are able to repair the injuries they got after the treatment is over.

This is the reason why patients undergoing chemotherapy may experience different side effects. The side effects include:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Hair loss
  • Psychosocial Distress

Other than these side effects, it has also been shown that some patients develop secondary neoplasm. This is a class of cancerous tumor that has spread from the original tumor or it can be a completely different one that has multiplied after receiving a chemo treatment.

Chemotherapy is carried out into different sessions. For each session, the chemicals are injected into the body to kill off the cancer cells. This is followed by a rest period to help the damaged cells to recover from what these sustained because of the therapy. The combination of session and rest period is known as a cycle. A course is the term for the series of cycles.

There are different chemotherapy regimens being used. Each regimen is a combination of different agents to help treat a particular type of cancer. Also, side effects may vary depending on the regimen used by the patient. Some regimens include:

Chemotherapy can be used on its own or in conjunction with other cancer treatment type to garner a more effective result.  It can be paired to radiotherapy and this is branded as chemo-radiation or chemoradiotherapy. This is also sometimes used before a surgery (Neoadjuvant) to shrink a tumor that has become too large or too attached. It is also being used after operations (Adjuvant) to kill other cancer cells that might have been missed during the surgery to prevent the cancer from recurring. This is also being used to treat people who are already on the advanced stage of their cancer.

Chemotherapy is a popular choice for stopping cancer. It has given hope to many people. Although it has been known to cause a lot of side effects, it has also been able to increase the number of cancer survivors.


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