Chemotherapy is a popular term used in connection with cancer treatment. It refers to the powerful drug treatment used to kill cancerous or abnormal cells in the body. The treatment also referred to as chemo. The dug contains a powerful chemical to kill the fast-growing cells in your body. The drugs try to destroy the abnormal cells in the body. Though the treatment can manage other health issues, it is mostly used for cancer treatments. Different types of drugs are available for treatment. The chemo drugs are used alone or in combination with other treatment options.
Importance Of Chemotherapy
In normal cases, the cells in your body grow and die in a controlled manner. But, due to some defect in the DNA, the cells continue to grow and divide without control. These abnormal cells are known as cancer cells. It can crowd the healthy cells in your body and result in organ failure. The chemo drugs kill abnormal cells and prevent them from growing at an alarming rate or spreading. Different types of drugs are available to control the cancerous cells. Based on your disease, the doctor suggests the drugs for the therapy. But, the treatment is not free of side effects. The drugs can kill healthy cells along with the cancerous ones. So, it can lead to side effects.
Need For Chemotherapy
Most of the doctor recommend chemo for treating or managing cancer. It is also used to alleviate other health problems. Powerful drugs are used in different settings to treat people suffering from cancer. The main goals of the treatment are:
- To destroy malignant cells that hide from other treatment options like surgery or radiation. So, it is used after other methods during cancer treatment. It kills the remaining cancer cells in the body. The treatment is known as adjuvant therapy.
- It used to prepare you for other treatments. Chemo drugs can shrink the size of the malignant tumor. So, it aids in better chances of removal of a cancerous tumor from the body. Doctors refer to the treatment method as neoadjuvant therapy.
- Palliative chemotherapy to ease and symptoms associated with different types of cancer. So, the drugs relieve the signs and symptoms as it kills some of the cancer cells.
Treatment For Other Conditions
Apart from cancer, the treatment can also treat other conditions. So it is effective in treating the conditions like:
- The treatment can offer relief from diseases affecting bone marrow as well as blood cells. You need to undergo a stem cell transplant to alleviate the condition. Chemotherapy is often used to prepare your body for the transplant.
- Manage diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Risks Associated With Chemotherapy
Chemo tends to kill healthy cells along with the malignant cells. Therefore, it can cause severe side effects. The side-effects and its severity depend on the drug and the amount used for chemo. As each drug has different side effects, you need to talk to your doctor about the adverse effects. The risks associated with the treatment are:
Common Risks With Chemotherapy
People undergoing chemo can face some common side effects. So, if you or your loved one undergo the therapy, then you can experience:
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth ulcers or sores
- Bruise easily
In the majority of cases, it is easy to treat the side effects. You can also take steps to prevent adverse effects. With proper care and treatment, you can manage the side effects. It subsides as your treatment ends.
Late Developing And Long Lasting Side Effects
Chemotherapy drugs can also cause side effects that can develop months or years later. The late-developing or lasting side effects depend on the drug used for the treatment. Therefore, the common issues people face include:
- Heart problems
- Damage to lung tissue
- Kidney problems
- Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
- Risk of developing secondary cancer (new cancer)
You need to talk to your doctor regarding the chances of developing late side effects. Ask for the signs and symptoms you need to monitor that indicates some problem.
Prepare For Chemotherapy
Before undergoing the therapy, you need to prepare yourself. But, depending on the type of chemo you undergo, the preparation methods may vary. The type of drugs used for chemo and the methods of administration are decisive factors in preparation. You can talk to your doctor about preparations before undergoing chemo. Therefore, follow the detailed and specific instructions provided by your doctor. It includes:
Insertion Of Devices
It is essential for people who are undergoing intravenous chemo. To make infusion easier, a device is surgically inserted. Your doctor can suggest a port or pump. But, in the majority of the cases, your doctor suggested placing a catheter into the large vein. The device is placed in your chest for infusion. The drugs are administered through the device.
Undergo Tests And Procedures
You need to undergo tests and procedures before the therapy. It is to check if your body is ready to undergo the treatment. So, you have to undergo the following:
The blood sample is tested to check for your liver and kidney functions. The tests reveal the normal working of the vital organs.
You need to undergo imaging tests and other tests to detect the heart function. Your heart must function properly.
If the doctor finds any abnormality in the test results, then the team delays the treatment or selects drugs as well as the dosage that causes you no harm.
Visit Your Dentist
You need to visit your doctor for a complete dental checkup. The dentist checks your teeth for signs of infection. It is important to treat the existing infection before undergoing chemo. Managing infection before chemotherapy reduces the risk of complications. It is because the chemo medications weaken your immune system. So, your body fails to fight infections.
Plan Ahead To Overcome Side Effects
Undergoing chemo can trigger several side effects. So, talk to your doctor about the possible side effects during and after the therapy. Based on the information, you need to make proper arrangements to overcome them. For example, if the chemo causes infertility, you need to save eggs or sperms for future use. Similarly, therapy causes hair loss. So, plan ahead to get a proper head covering.
Make Arrangements For Assistance
You need to make arrangements in your professional and personal life. The chemo treatments are often given on an outpatient basis. But, continuous therapy requires hospitalization. Therefore, you need to make arrangements for your absence. In most cases, people can continue their daily routines without any hassles. Since it is not possible to predict how your body will react to the chemo medications, you need to prepare yourself for severe side effects.
Ask your doctor if you’ll need time off work or help around the house after treatment. Talk to your doctor to get the details of your chemotherapy treatments so that you can make arrangements for work, children, pets or other commitments.
Prepare For The First Treatment
You need to talk to your doctor and nurses to get more information about chemo. It will help you prepare for the therapy. Get rest before undergoing the first treatment. Also, eat a light meal before the process as chemo drugs can cause nausea.
Have a friend or family member drive you to your first treatment. Most people can drive themselves to and from chemotherapy sessions. But the first time you may find that the medications make you sleepy or cause other side effects that make driving difficult.
Get Emotional Support
You can suffer emotional distress during the therapy. So, you need to seek professional assistance to deal with emotional issues. So, begin therapy or join a support group to deal with the emotional upheaval. Talking to someone outside the group of family and friends can help you remain optimistic. The assistance can help you calm any fears.
Your doctor determines the drugs for chemotherapy. It is determined based on several factors like:
- The type of cancer you suffer
- Stage of cancer
- Your overall health
- History of previous cancer treatments
- Your goals and preferences regarding the treatment
You need to talk to your doctor about the different options available. From the options provided, you can choose the right one.
Methods To Give Chemotherapy Drugs
Your doctor can suggest different methods to give drugs to destroy cancerous cells. Based on your condition, overall health, and individual preferences, you have different ways to give the drugs:
Your doctor can administer the therapy drugs as infusions into your vein. The intravenous method to deliver medication directly into the bloodstream. A tube with a needle or device is inserted into the vein to give the medication.
In some cases, doctors suggest the patient take oral chemo pills. It is suggested when the patient cannot undergo infusions.
Your doctor can also suggest intramuscular injection to give chemo medication. The injection with drugs having the ability to kill cancer cells or shrink the tumor is given deep into your muscle. Your arm, buttock or thigh is commonplace for administering the drugs.
Chemo creams or gels contain drugs that can kill cancerous cells. It is applied directly to the skin surface. So, it is effective for treating certain types of skin cancer.
In the majority of the cases, the drugs used for chemo treat a specific area in your body. The drugs are given directly in one area of the body suffering from cancer. For example, you have the following options of therapy targeting areas like:
- Intraperitoneal Chemo (Drugs to attack abdomen cancer)
- Intrapleural Chemo (medication to attack cancer in the chest)
- Intrathecal Chemo (drugs to manage central nervous system cancer)
- Intravesical Chemo (medication to attack cancer cells through the urethra into the bladder)
Chemo is given directly to the region with cancerous cells. It is given directly after or before the surgery.
During Chemotherapy Treatment
Depending on the type of treatment decided by your doctor, you need to follow the steps suggested. The chemo through infusion requires preparation prior to the therapy. But, the other methods like pills, creams or shots do not require prior preparation. You can ask your doctor about the other methods in detail.
For First Chemo Treatment
People who undergo the treatment for the first time need to prepare themselves for the treatment. You may feel anxious or have fear. So, you need emotional support during the therapy. Bring your friend or family member to support you. You need to bring the items needed to make you more comfortable. Therefore, never forget your phone, tablet, books to read, and blanket. It will make you feel at ease.
During Infusion Treatment
Before the infusion treatment starts, you need to see the panel of doctors. The medical professional will perform the following:
- Take your blood sample for testing.
- Meet your oncologist to discuss the results of the blood tests and get information on the therapy.
- Meet the oncology nurse or other medical professionals who will give you the drugs.
- Undergo physical examination to check your vitals like pulse, blood pressure, breathing, and body temperature.
- Have your height and weight measures. It is essential to determine the right dose of drugs necessary for the treatment.
- Put the central line or IV tube through the arm.
- Your oncology nurse will start the infusion process. You need to stay in the hospital until the infusion process ends.
Receiving Chemo Through Port
In some cases, the chemo drugs are given through a port. For undergoing the therapy in such a way, you need to make an appointment for minor surgery. It is for placing the port in your body. The port refers to the plastic or round metal disk through which the IV goes in. using the port will help the nurse provide drugs faster. It is because the nurse does not need to find the vein for putting the IV.
Other Chemo Treatments
For other forms of chemo treatments like pills or creams, you need to talk to your doctor about the methods to take or apply the drugs. You never have to prepare before taking the drugs.
Duration Of Chemotherapy
The duration of the treatment depends on the severity of your issue and the type of chemo you choose. The infusion method takes minutes, hours or even several days. In some cases, you need to undergo continuous chemo to destroy the cancer cells. You need to take medication to prevent the side effects occurring after the therapy. Depending on the drugs you receive, the doctor decides the duration and frequency of the treatment. It also depends on the type of cancer you suffer and how your body recovers after each treatment. The schedules for chemo vary. So, your doctor either suggests continuous treatment or periods of rest to let your body recover.
Places To Receive Chemotherapy
Based on the type of chemo, you can get the treatments in the following places:
- In the outpatient unit for chemo
- At the doctor’s office
- Stay in the hospital
- At home (it is the case when you take pills or apply cream)
Cost Of Chemotherapy
The therapy costs are high in several countries, including the US. The cost depends on the type of drugs used and the number of rounds the patients must undergo. Several other factors also influence the cost of the treatment. But, the average cost of chemo is $40,000.
Results Of Chemotherapy
To know how effective the chemo treatment is, you need to meet your oncologist regularly. The doctor asks you the side effects experienced. It is to offer treatments to manage them. Many symptoms are easy to control. So, it is important to discuss the side effects with your oncologist. Depending on your situation, the doctor orders for scans as well as other tests. It monitors cancer during the treatment. The results also give your doctor a better idea about how you respond to the treatment. It needs adjustment accordingly for positive results.
Recovery After Chemotherapy
While recovering from the chemo treatment, you need to monitor your body for symptoms. You must never ignore symptoms as it can indicate something serious. Any minor issue can escalate into something bigger. So, you need to follow the steps suggested below to ensure you recover from the therapy without any complication:
Update On All Vaccination
You need to ask your doctor the vaccinations you need to take after the therapy. The chemo can affect your immune system. A weak immune system makes you susceptible to flu or other problems. Therefore, to reduce the risk of such an issue you need to take flu and pneumonia vaccinations.
You need to include physical exercise in your routine. Start slowly and gradually increase the time you spend on exercising. Exercise can improve blood circulation and strengthen your immune system.
Eating healthy is necessary to recover quickly from the chemo sessions. Include a well-balanced diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and meat. The vitamins and minerals in a balanced diet can make your immune system strong.
Smoking affects your immune system adversely. So, it is important to stop any bad habits that cause problems for your immune system. A weak immune system can trigger secondary disease. Therefore, quit the bad habit. It also prevents the development of other types of cancers.
Give Importance To Preventive Care
If you or your loved ones have received chemo, then it is essential to take good care. It is to avoid the risk of major infections and associated complications. You have to take good care to prevent putting the health at risk.
Chemotherapy is one of the common cancer treatments used to cure the disease, manage the symptoms, or as a palliative option. With the treatment, you can prolong the life and enhance the quality of life. You need to talk to your doctor about the side effects caused by cancer treatment. You need to undergo the therapy after discussing all the details of the treatment. It will aid in dealing with the complications and health issues arising due to the treatment. Talk to your doctor to deal with the treatment and improve your quality of life.
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