Cancer is deep inside the body. Even if it shrinks or grows, the patient won’t be able to see or feel it. So after the diagnoses of the cancer, the doctor generally will choose the treatments that can cure the cancer. Based on the location of the cancer in the body, the size, and the test results the doctor will decide whether to continue with the treatment that has been started or shift to another treatment.
WHAT DOES THE TREATMENT RESPONSE MEAN?
The terms used by the doctor to check how the treatment is working are:
- A partial response or remission: this means the tumor has shrunk by 50%, and it is still there.
- A complete response or remission: means the cancer can’t be measured, and the cancer too small to find through any tests.
- Stable: The state of the cancer is the same it has not got worse or improved.
- Progression: means has grown or spread. The treatment needs to be changed to control it.
TESTS TO CHECK THE TREATMENT RESPONSE:
The treating doctor may call you a number of times after treatment to check if the cancer has come back or spread. The doctor also monitors for the side-effects of the treatment. A few tests will be conducted, like the ones done earlier to the treatment to see if the cancer treatment is working. The tests are:
- BLOOD TEST: Certain enzymes or proteins are released by the cancer cells or the organs when the tumor grows, so the blood tests help to check the levels of these in the blood.
- TUMOR MARKERS: The doctor tests the blood, urine or tissues to see if the proteins, enzymes and other chemicals which are released by the tumor have progressed.
- X-RAY: To check where the cancer cells are in the body and if the cancer has spread to the bones.
- The other tests are CT scan, MRI and PET to check the location in the body and if the treatment is working.
- MAMMOGRAM: This test helps to look for cancer in the breasts.
The type of test and how often it is taken depends on the type of cancer and treatment given.
SYMPTOMS THAT CANCER HAS COME BACK OR SPREAD AFTER TREATMENT:
- A new growth or lump under the skin.
- Continuous pain in the bones, joints, or bones broken.
- Headaches, dizziness, changes in the vision, if the cancer has spread to the brain.
- Cough, trouble breathing, this means cancer has spread to the lungs.
- Belly pain, itching eyes or skin turn yellow, this indicates cancer has spread to the liver.
- Nausea, vomiting and fever.
These symptoms can also be the side effects of the cancer treatment, better to see the treating doctor immediately.
CANCER AND CHEMOTHERAPY
When cells in the body grow uncontrollably it leads to cancer. The deaths that are caused by cancer is second only to that from cardiovascular disease. Great improvements have been made in the treatment of cancer in the past 50 years. As it is a major health concern, efforts have been made to find new therapeutic approaches. In the past the treatments were surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Through these treatments the growth of the tumor was stopped and cured also.
Chemotherapy, was started in 1940s, before that is was only surgery. The combination of treatment started in 1960s. One advantage in chemotherapy was that it targeted a specific difference between tumors and normal tissue.
Chemotherapy drugs are used to treat a variety of cancers. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment where powerful chemicals are used to kill the fast growing cells in the body.
- Chemotherapy can be used as a sole treatment for cancer.
- After surgery if any cancer cells are left in the body, chemotherapy is used to kill the remaining cancer cells.
- Chemo is also used to shrink the cancer tumor. Chemotherapy is used to ease signs and symptoms of cancer by killing some of the cells.
SIDE EFFECTS OF CHEMOTHERAPY DRUGS
Not every chemotherapy drug has side effects; each drug has a different effect. The common side effects are:
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, loss of appetite, tiredness, fever, pain, mouth sores, constipation, fever and bleeding.
There is no need to worry as most of these side effects can be prevented or treated, and once the treatment is over the side effects subside.
How often a patient should receive chemotherapy the doctor decides based on the drug that would be given. Chemotherapy can be received in a doctor’s clinic, in an outpatient chemotherapy unit or at home if pills are given. The doctor meets the patient often during the chemotherapy treatment to check for side effects, response to the treatment so that the treatment can be adjusted accordingly.
REASONS FOR THE FAILURE OF CHEMOTHERAPY
There are a number of reasons for the failure of chemotherapy:
- Cancer becomes resistant to many drugs.
- So some cancer cells survive and grow again.
- The tumor cells can arise from stem cells.
CHEMOTHERAPY DOES NOT WORK. WHAT NEXT?
The doctor might suggest new treatments with different combinations of chemotherapy drugs.
The Oncologist along with the patient will consider whether with more treatment the health will improve.
Whether it is better to stop chemo and start another treatment, this is called a second-line of treatment. Stopping the treatment does not mean care is stopped, another course of treatment starts which is best for the patient.
It is also better to take the opinion of your treating doctor, other members of the treatment team and family members.
SUCCESS RATE OF CHEMOTHERAPY:
Chemotherapy is a powerful treatment, where with drugs damaged cancerous cells are treated. The main goal of this treatment is to see that the cancer cells don’t grow or multiply.
It has been seen five years after the treatment 47% of the patients have survived, based on the grade and stage of the cancer and the type of treatment.
educating the family, friends and coworkers that after the last chemotherapy it would take 6,9 or even 12 months for improvement.
A perfect clean house and doing things that enjoy the patient can increase the survival rate.
Do not over do things and feel tired for a few more days.
AWARENESS OF TREATING CANCER WITH CHEMOTHERAPY:
Patients think that chemotherapy kills every single cancer cell in the body during the first treatment itself. They need to be educated that chemotherapy treatments are given in repeating cycles. The length depends on the drugs being given and that there is a gap between the treatments. Sometimes chemotherapy alone can’t cure the cancer, it has to be combined with other treatments. This awareness must be brought about especially among the educated public.