Chemotherapy is a sort of aggressive chemical medication therapy intended to kill rapidly multiplying cells in the body. Because cancer cells multiply and divide more quickly than normal cells, it is primarily utilized to treat them. An oncologist is a medical specialist in cancer treatment. They’ll speak with you and collaborate on a treatment plan. Chemotherapy is usually combined with other treatments such as radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy. It’s a systemic treatment, which means that it affects the entire body.
The side effects of chemotherapy could be severe. Each medication has its own set of antagonistic effects, and not all drugs produce all of them. Consult your doctor about the potential side effects of the medicines you’ll be taking.
The following are some of the side effects that might arise during chemotherapy:
- Easy bruising
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
Many of these adverse outcomes are avoidable or treatable. Once therapy is done, the majority of adverse effects fade away.
You and your doctor can coordinate to analyze the factors and develop the optimal treatment plan for you. Chemotherapy is usually delivered as a tablet or as an injection or IV directly into the veins. Several methods can administer chemotherapy. These include:
- Depending on the position of the tumor, chemotherapy can be given straight into it. Your doctor can implant slow-dissolving discs that release drugs over time if you have surgery to remove cancer.
- Chemotherapy creams can be used to treat certain malignant skin cancers.
- Chemotherapy can be delivered locally to a specific portion of the body, such as the abdomen, chest, central nervous system, or bladder through the urethra.
- Chemotherapy pills can be taken for some forms of chemotherapy.
- Single doses of liquid chemotherapy medications are available, or you can have a port placed where a needle is injected for each session. The infusion method with a port causes pain solely at the injection site on the initial visit; however, the port needle can loosen depending on your activity level.
- The location of your therapy is determined by the delivery method you select. If you use lotions or pills, for example, you can treat yourself at home. Other operations are typically carried out in a hospital or a cancer treatment facility.
Your chemotherapy treatment regimen, including how often you will be treated, will be fully customized. It can be modified if your body doesn’t respond well to the treatment or increased or decreased based on how well the cancer cells respond to treatments.
Read: The Role of Immunotherapy in Cancer Treatment
How long does chemotherapy take?
Chemotherapy is frequently administered for a set period, such as six months or a year. Alternatively, you could undergo chemotherapy for as long as it is effective. Many medications have severe side effects that make it impossible to treat them daily. These medications are generally given with breaks so that you can relax and recover before the following session. This allows your healthy cells to recover.
For example, you could receive chemotherapy on the first day and then rest for three weeks before restarting the treatment. A treatment cycle is three weeks. A chemotherapy cycle consists of several processes. A typical course lasts three months or longer.
Some malignancies are treated with fewer cycles and less recovery time., termed as dose-dense schedule. It has the potential to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy in the treatment of some malignancies. However, it raises the chance of side effects. Consult your medical team to determine the optimal schedule for you.
How is chemotherapy administered?
Chemotherapy can be administered in various ways, as detailed below:
Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy: Many medications must be injected straight into a vein. This is referred to as intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. Treatment can range anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Some IV medications are more effective if given over several days or weeks. You administer them using a tiny pump that you wear or carry. Continuous infusion chemotherapy is the term for this type of treatment.
Oral chemotherapy: Some medications can be taken orally. They can be used in the form of a pill, a capsule, or a liquid. This means you might be able to pick up your medication from the pharmacy and take it home with you. Oral cancer therapy is getting increasingly popular. Some of these medications must be taken every day, while others must be taken just occasionally.
Injected chemotherapy: This is when you are given chemotherapy in the form of an injection. The shot can be administered into a muscle or under the skin. These shots might be given to you in your arm, leg, or abdomen.
Chemotherapy into an artery: A blood channel that transfers blood from your heart to another region of your body is known as an artery. Chemotherapy is sometimes injected directly into an artery which leads to malignancy. Intra-arterial chemotherapy, or IA chemotherapy, is the term for this type of treatment.
Chemotherapy into the peritoneum or abdomen: Medication may be injected straight into your abdomen for some malignancies. This medication is effective for malignancies of the peritoneum. The peritoneum surrounds the intestines, liver, and stomach and covers the inside of the abdomen. Ovarian cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers to spread to the peritoneum.
Topical chemotherapy: Some forms of chemotherapy are available as a cream that you apply to your skin. You go to the drugstore and get your medication, which you then take at home.
How long do the effects of chemotherapy last?
This is dependent on:
- The stage of your cancer and the location of your disease.
- How far has it progressed
- Cure, growth control, or pain relief are the goals of treatment.
- The kind of chemotherapy used
- Your body’s reaction to the treatment
Chemotherapy is often administered in “cycles,” which entails a period of treatment followed by a period of rest. A four-week cycle, for instance, might consist of one week of therapy followed by three weeks of relaxation. The time you spend resting permits your body to produce new, healthy cells. It’s best not to skip a treatment once a cycle has been set out, although your doctor may prescribe it if adverse effects are severe. Your doctors will most likely devise a new process to assist you in getting back on track.
- Chemotherapy can help you live longer and manage your symptoms by shrinking or slowing the growth of your cancer.
- Chemotherapy may decrease cancer enough to allow surgery to eliminate it in a limited number of persons with borderline resectable cancer.
- If you have chemotherapy following surgery, the risks of recurrence of cancer may be reduced.
- You may have more frequent check-ups and interactions with your doctor when you receive chemotherapy, which some individuals find comforting.
- Chemotherapy has the potential to create adverse effects.
- You’ll have to visit the hospital frequently for treatment, which might be exhausting.
- Chemotherapy has a varied impact on different people, and it may or may not be effective for some.
Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer that aims to kill or injure cancer cells. At the same time, it frequently affects healthy cells, resulting in undesirable side effects. The majority of these adverse effects are minor and curable. Your cancer care team can explain your chemotherapy strategy, how it’s supposed to work, and what side effects you might experience.
If you have questions about chemotherapy or want to talk with someone at University cancer centers about your cancer treatment options, get an appointment scheduled with a member of our team.