Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. Chemotherapy has been used for many years and is one of the most common treatments for cancer. In most cases, chemotherapy act by interfering with the ability of growth or reproduction of cancer cells. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used alone to treat some types of cancer or in combination with other therapies such as radiation or surgery. Often using a combination of chemotherapy drugs to fight a specific cancer. Certain chemotherapy drugs may be given in a specific order, depending on the type of cancer being treated.
While chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating certain cancers, chemotherapy drugs reach all parts of the body, not just cancer cells. For this reason, it may be many side effects during treatment. Being able to anticipate these side effects can help you and those in charge of your care to prepare and in some cases, to avoid the appearance of these symptoms.
How does chemotherapy work?
In most cases, chemotherapy decreases the ability of growth or reproduction of cancer cells. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. It is often used a combination of chemotherapy drugs to fight a specific cancer.
How is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy can be given:
- As a pill to swallow.
- As an injection into the muscle or fat tissue.
- Intravenously (directly into the bloodstream).
- Intrathecally, with a lumbar puncture (to treat cancer cells in the cerebrospinal fluid).
What are the side effects of chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy disrupts the rapidly growing cancer cells but also affects some healthy cells. Before applying chemotherapy to treat cancer, many tests are performed to evaluate the baseline functioning of the heart, kidneys, lungs, eyes, ears and reproductive organs prior to treatment. Some chemotherapy can affect the functioning of these organs during treatment or months or years after treatment. Some treatments can affect fertility. There are other potential side effects, among which include the following:
- The bone marrow suppression. Normally, red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that fight infection and platelets that help blood clotting, decrease due to chemotherapy. The bone marrow suppression increases the risk of anemia, fatigue, infection and bleeding.
- The mouth sores, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Chemotherapy affects rapidly growing cells of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract (GI).
- Hair loss, also called "alopecia". Chemotherapy affects the cells of the hair and nails. In most cases, the children's hair will grow back end of treatment. It is likely that there are changes in the texture of hair and fingernails.