Chemotherapy is undoubtedly one of the core treatment options for cancer patients. There are several ways of delivering chemotherapy, including intravenous, oral chemotherapy, and direct injection to targeted organs. Oncologists may plan to use either this treatment alone or in conjunction with surgery and radiation. Before taking chemotherapy, patients are advised to inform if they are taking any medications that may have a reaction if given with chemotherapy. Inform prescribed medicine, over-the-counter medicines, alcohol and nutritional supplements they are taking.
The goal of chemotherapy is to kill or stop the advancement of cancer cells. Cancer cells could be broken down, interrupted to grow further, sabotaged nutritional supplies and degraded blood vessel growth to the tumor.
Chemotherapy is a cycle treatment. The first day of chemotherapy is the beginning of a cycle. It comprises drug receiving sessions and resting sessions. Patients can receive chemotherapy at either hospital or home.
Chemotherapy for some specific type of cancers
Patients with stage 3 colon cancer are prescribed with medicines several times a week for six months, consecutively. Chemotherapy is recommended for stage 4 cancer patients. Oncologists may treat the patients with chemotherapy in conjunctions with other treatment options, such as surgery and radiation.
Drugs called FOLFOX and FOLFIRI are combined and commonly used to treat stage 4 colon cancer, delivered through an intravenous injection. Other drugs that target tumor vessel are known as Bevacizumab. Some drugs can block the protein GFR action, which helps cancer cells to grow.
With a combination of radiation therapy and surgery, radiation can shrink the tumor before the its removal. Radiation also helps surgeons to remove a certain amount of surrounding tissues from the rectum, allowing feces to pass normally. Even after the surgery, there is still a chance for cancer cells to remain in the body. Doctor may prescribe Fluoruracil, Leucovorin, Oxalipaltin and Capecitanine for rectal cancer.
Patients who have more than 1 cm residual cancerous cells after the surgery, may be advised to use intravenous platinum-based chemotherapy. This IV chemotherapy involves six cycles of treatment that takes about 3 weeks. For recurrent ovarian cancer, patients usually respond to the same drugs used during the initial cycles of chemotherapy. However, some patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer are advised to change to other type of chemotherapy.
After blood tests, oncologists and the medical team will determine the treatment plan based on the laboratory results and body mass index. The doctor may advise surgical implantation of Central Venous Catheter (CVC). Types of CVC include Central Line, Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC), and Port-a-cath (chemo port). Central line is a plastic tube inserted in the heart or a neck vein. PICC is a central line inserted into a vein in the arm. Port-a-cath (chemo port) is an implantable medical device placed beneath the patient’s skin. Treatment cycles are usually two to three treatments long.
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms for people who have been treated with chemotherapy within 24 hours. Physicians may suggest patients to take Antiemetics that help control the symptoms. Some patients may experience diarrhea after receiving chemotherapy. Imodium and other drugs may be suggested to control diarrhea. Chemotherapy may also affect certain areas such as mouth; mouth ulcers, dry mouth or painful swallowing. Visiting dentists and consuming hydrating food is recommended. Other symptoms like hair loss, and muscle pain can also occur.