Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer cells in humans and animals. It is also called “Chemo”.
Surgery and radiation therapy remove, kill or damage cancer cells in a particular area, but chemotherapy works throughout the whole body. Chemo kills the cancer cells that are spread to other parts of the body apart from the actual place of the tumor.
Chemotherapy treatment also affects some fast-growing healthy cells such as hair, skin, intestines, and bone marrow.
How is chemotherapy used?
Chemotherapy is used to shrink the tumors before surgery or radiotherapy; this is known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Otherwise, usually, chemo is done after surgery or radiotherapy to clear any remaining cancer cells. The dosage of the drug is decided based on the patient’s condition, which is derived from the height and weight of the patient.
What chemotherapy does?
It is based on the type of cancer and the number of years it is present in the body. The three main reasons chemotherapy is done are Cure, Control, and Palliation.
Cure – For some type of cancers, the treatment will destroy the cancer cells and your doctor can no longer detect them in your body for a long time. After many regular follow-ups, the best outcome is that they never grow back again but it may not happen all the time.
Control – Permanent cure is not possible; the goal is to control the disease from spreading. Therefore, chemo is done to shrink the tumors and stop spreading. This way, the patient can live for a longer period. Cancer doesn’t completely get cured in many cases they keep coming back similar to diabetes or heart problems, in such situations chemo can be given once again.
Palliation – Chemo is performed to ease the symptoms that are caused by cancer is called palliation. This is mostly done when cancer is in an advanced stage and has spread all over the body. The aim is to help the patient to improve the quality of life and help him/her to feel better. It will shrink the tumor that is causing pain or pressure.
How chemotherapy treatment done?
Your doctor called an oncologist will be deciding the drugs that are used in the treatment. The doctor will inform the duration of the treatment. Of course, it depends upon the type, size, and location of cancer. Combinations of drugs are used to treat the cancer cells so that cancer shouldn’t become resistant to any one chemo drug.
Sometimes, chemo is the only treatment you may require. It is mostly used with surgery or radiation therapy or both.
Surgery- a cancerous tumor or tissue is removed, or if any organs that are contaminated with cancer also removed.
Radiation therapy- your doctor will use invisible radioactive particles to destroy cancer cells. It is done through a machine that bombards parts of your body from the outside.
Biological therapy- bacteria, vaccines or antibodies are carefully given to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is also used to:-
Chemo is used to shrink the tumor before surgery or radiation therapy is known as neoadjuvant therapy.
It is used after the surgery or radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells is known as adjuvant therapy.
It is used with other treatments if cancer returns.
How is the chemotherapy procedure done?
The drugs are given through
Injection – drugs are directly given into the muscle in the hip, arm, thigh, leg or stomach, just beneath the skin.
IA (Intraarterial) – the drug is given directly into the artery that is feeding cancer, through a catheter.
IP (Intraperitoneal) – it is done during surgery or via a tube with a special port inserted by the doctor. The drugs are delivered to the peritoneal cavity that contains organs such as the liver, intestine, stomach, and ovaries.
Intravenous (IV) – given directly into a vein.
Topical – you will rub the drugs into a cream form onto your skin.
Oral – Pills or syrups