Your body’s cells are in a perpetual cycle of growth, reproduction and death. This process is done in a very controlled manner for the benefit of your health.Cancer cells are abnormal, form out of control and have the ability to invade healthy tissue.
Chemotherapy, or chemo, is a drug therapy that’s designed to stop cancer cells from multiplying. At the same time, these drugs cause problems for your healthy cells as well.It’s typically the pillage of normal cells that causes most of chemo’s side effects. You may experience no side effects, just a few or copious after effects.
Common chemo side effects may include:
The degree of your side effect discomfort depends on the type and dosage of drugs received.
Cancer chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. An oncologists, who has advanced cancer treatment training, is usually the health care professional determining the type and dosage of drugs to carry out the battle against your cancer.
Healthy and cancer cells multiply in the same manner. When chemotherapy drugs attack cells, they do not differentiate between normal ones and cancer. So every time chemotherapy is administered, it is a delicate balance between annihilating bad cells and sparing the functional ones.
One advantage of chemotherapy is it treats your whole body. So if any cancer cells spread beyond the discovered tumor, chemo’s medications will knock them out wherever they wondered off to.
Most often, chemo is used in conjunction with other forms of cancer treatments, such as:
Chemotherapy drugs have different actions and they’re divided into groups based on how they work, chemical structure, relationship to another drug or because they originate from the same plant. And some belong to more than one of these over-viewed groups.
Alkylating agents directly damage DNA to prevent the cancer cell from reproducing. These drugs are used to treat many cancers, including:
These drugs can cause long-term damage to the bone marrow and carry a minor future risk of leukemia.
Antimetabolites interfere with DNA and RNA growth by substituting in for their normal building blocks. They are commonly used to treat:
- breast cancer
- ovarian cancer
- intestinal tract cancers
Anthracyclines interfere with enzymes involved in DNA replication. In high dosages they can permanently damage your heart. Because of this, these drugs have a lifetime dosage limit.
Topoisomerase inhibitors interfere with topoisomerases enzymes, which help separate DNA for copying. They are used to treat cancers involving:
- certain leukemia
- gastrointestinal tract
Mitotic inhibitors are derived from natural products. They stop mitosis or inhibit enzymes from making proteins needed for cell reproduction. They’re used to treat several different types of cancer, including:
Mitotic drugs have the potential to cause peripheral nerve damage. As such, doses may be limited.
Steroids act like natural hormones and are beneficial in the treatment of some types of cancer, in particular:
- multiple myeloma
There’s in excess of a hundred chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer. Which ones are doled out depends on several factors, like:
- type of cancer
- general state of health
- the stage of the cancer
- previous cancer treatments
- tolerance of treatment side effects
- other serious health problems ~ heart, liver, kidney disease
Chemotherapy is customarily given in cycles. A cycle may mean taking the chemo drugs daily, weekly or monthly for a few months or more. Ofttimes followed by a recovery period after each treatment cycle.
Delivery of your chemotherapy drugs may be brought to you via:
- orally ~ as a pill
- topically ~ treats skin cancers
- intravenously ~ injected into a vein allows for rapid distribution
- injections ~ injects the drug directly into a muscle, under skin or into a cancerous area on skin
The intravenous method is the most common because it delivers cancer killing drugs directly into your bloodstream for quick system wide delivery.
No matter how you get it, your course of chemo therapy deals with some strong meds. They have a relatively narrow safe and effective dose range. Accordingly, too little will not effectively treat your cancer and too much may cause very serious side effects.