> Chemotherapy: when to use it?
There are three cases in which chemotherapy is used.
- When the cancer has metastases (cancer cells that have grown out of the initial tumor mass), chemotherapy is a method of attacking these cells.
- Before surgery, to weaken and shrink the tumor. In this case, chemo is also referred to as a "neoadjuvant".
- After an "operation, however, it is called" adjuvant "and allows to eliminate all the remains of the tumor, which are often difficult to see.
It must be emphasized that a different therapy is suitable for each person and type of cancer, also based on the stage of development of the disease. For certain localized cancers and certain solid tumors, it will be preferable to have the patient undergo radiotherapy or curetherapy. Other times, however, these treatments are associated with chemotherapy. In any case, however, it is the oncologist (the specialist in the treatment of tumors) who will decide which therapy to submit to the patient.
> What does it consist of?
Chemotherapy is usually given intravenously. Usually, combined chemotherapy is prescribed, that is, a mixture of several drugs. The patient goes to the hospital and remains there for the duration of the therapy. However, there are alternatives. If, for some types of cancer, the session lasts 30 minutes, for others it can last even more than 3 days. Some drugs are also administered orally, subcutaneously, or directly into the tumor (intralesional administration). For therapies for which a prolonged infusion is foreseen, doctors may also decide to implant a catheter to the patient. It is a kind of pump that the patient must carry on the abdomen and which regulates the administration of chemotherapy, so that the drugs are released into the blood through the catheter (the most used type of catheter is the “port a cath”). Injection chemotherapy is usually done in day hospital. Sometimes, however, a nurse may be required to provide therapy at home. Chemotherapy in tablets, capsules and cream can also be carried out at home, with the help of a nurse who follows the patient during therapy. The dosage of chemotherapy depends on the type of cancer, its stage of evolution and the person undergoing therapy. to therapy.
> How does it work?
Chemotherapy called "antineoplasty" is based on the "joint action of several specific drugs that prevent cell division (mitosis) and destroy cancer cells (which have the particularity of multiplying in an exaggerated way). However, a system has not yet been found. really performing to destroy only the cancer cells, sparing the healthy ones.This is why, unfortunately, the destructive agents also affect non-diseased cells, and in particular those that reproduce quickly (such as red and white blood cells, the cells of the digestive mucosa. ..).
> Side effects
The side effects of chemotherapy are of great concern to patients who have to undergo this therapy, because they risk compromising the rhythms of their daily life. It must be remembered, however, that the importance of these side effects depends on the reaction of the individual who suffers them. As mentioned above, chemotherapy drugs mainly attack cells that multiply more often. Among these, there are hair cells, which is why chemotherapy often causes hair loss (alopecia). The mucous membranes are also weakened, especially those in the mouth, causing pain and canker sores. Nausea and diarrhea are common. The kidneys can also be touched, as well as the ends of the hands and feet, due to a weakening of the nerve fibers at this level. Typically, the patient feels very fatigued.
It is imperative to speak to your doctor about the side effects of chemotherapy; in fact, it could be adapted to the patient's needs, given that there are now several pharmaceutical solutions that are effective against these side effects.