Chemotherapy (Drug-Based Cancer Treatment)
Medical Oncology

Chemotherapy (Drug-Based Cancer Treatment)

    Chemotherapy (Drug-Based Cancer Treatment)

    Chemotherapy is used in cancer treatment to prevent or destroy the growth of cancer cells. In other words, when people talk about "drug-based cancer treatment," they refer to the use of medication. Drug-based cancer treatment is a therapy that aims to eliminate rapidly multiplying cells in the body.

    It is most effective when administered intravenously. The nucleus is a structure found at the center of every cell. It is commonly known as the "command center" of the cell and is where the chromosomes containing a person's DNA are stored.

    When a cell divides to create new cells, an identical copy of its DNA is produced as a byproduct of the process. The treatment renders the cells nonfunctional by causing irreparable damage while their nuclei are in the process of increasing.

    Additionally, it interferes with the chemical process that occurs during cell division, preventing the cell from reproducing. This leads to the cell's inability to proliferate. Chemotherapy is a combination of one or more drugs that is frequently used in cancer treatment. It can be administered orally, intravenously, or intramuscularly. All three methods are effective.

    What Is Chemotherapy?

    A cell is the basic building block for every body tissue. Although most cells cease dividing and multiplying once an individual reaches adulthood, this process can resume if the person experiences an injury.

    When cells divide, they copy their DNA to ensure that the new cells resemble the original ones. However, unlike healthy cells, cancer cells continuously divide and proliferate without being halted as a result of ongoing cell division. This uncontrolled growth and expansion of cancer cells form a mass known as a tumor.

    Chemotherapy is a way of treating cancer that involves administering a combination of different drugs to combat the disease. Drug-based cancer treatment is applied to patients to eliminate all cancer cells in their bodies, but it can also be used to improve their quality of life and extend their lifespan. Thus, one of the primary objectives of drug-based cancer treatment is to suppress the proliferation of cancer cells and their ability to metastasize.

    Drug-based cancer treatment is an effective approach to destroy cancer cells. However, it also has the potential to harm rapidly dividing healthy cells, such as those found in the digestive system, hair, and skin. Additionally, patients undergoing drug-based cancer treatment typically suffer from unpleasant side effects, such as hair loss, nausea, and vomiting, which are associated with the treatment.

    Nevertheless, since the potential positives, such as cancer prevention or an increase in average lifespan, outweigh the potential negative outcomes, disregarding these potentially adverse effects is a common practice.

    Why is Chemotherapy Administered?

    Drug-based cancer treatment is an option for cancer that can reduce the size of the tumor, halt its progression, eliminate cancer cells that have spread to other areas of the body, and alleviate certain symptoms. The administration of drug-based cancer treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer.

    There are situations where drug-based cancer treatment is the only medically viable option. Depending on the severity of the patient's condition, drug-based cancer treatment can be administered independently or in conjunction with other forms of treatment such as surgery and radiation therapy.

    For example, drug-based cancer treatment can be employed to shrink the tumor before surgery, to eliminate any remaining cancer cells after tumor removal, or to prepare for the removal of the tumor. Additionally, patients can undergo drug-based cancer treatment before or after radiation therapy.

    Types of Chemotherapy

    Cancer patients regularly attend sessions of medical oncology, where they undergo drug-based cancer treatment under the supervision of doctors. The medical oncologist makes decisions about the selection of cancer treatment drugs and drug combinations for each patient, taking into account the individual conditions of the patient.

    In other words, the choice of drugs is determined by factors such as the patient's age, overall health, tumor size, type, and location. Medical oncologists consider all these aspects when determining the frequency of drug-based cancer treatment. There are many different types of drug-based cancer treatments, and each one treats the conditions in different ways.

    Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy

    It is expected that the average tumor size will shrink, making the patient suitable for surgical intervention. By using neoadjuvant drug-based cancer treatment, also known as shrinkage cancer treatment, it is possible to separate cancerous tissue from healthy tissue. Typically, this type of treatment is administered as stage 1-4 courses for locally advanced malignancies such as breast, colon, and rectal tumors.

    Adjuvant Chemotherapy

    This drug-based cancer treatment is applied after a tumor has been surgically removed to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. Adjuvant drug-based cancer treatment is often referred to as preventive treatment due to its purpose, which is to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

    Palliative Chemotherapy

    Palliative chemotherapy is another term for drug-based cancer treatment administered to cancer patients to reduce symptoms and improve their quality of life. It treats physical and emotional symptoms associated with advanced cancer, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and edema.

    Edema can be counted among other symptoms that it can help alleviate. In other words, palliative drug-based cancer treatment is a treatment aimed at reducing symptoms and enabling the patient to continue their daily activities.

    Chemotherapy Side Effects

    Unlike normal body cells, cancer cells proliferate rapidly and can metastasize (spread to other parts of the body). All cancer treatment drugs, regardless of how they are administered, pass through the circulatory system and have the same effect because they interfere with the DNA and RNA of cancer cells. They either destroy cancer cells or prevent their growth.

    However, during this process, even healthy cells in the body have a chance of being killed. Therefore, depending on the severity of damage to healthy body cells caused by drug-based cancer treatment, a person may experience various adverse effects.

    Loss of appetite,
    Dry mouth,
    Mouth sores,
    Shortness of breath,
    Discomfort in the throat,
    Thin hair,
    Changes in the structure of the skin and nails,
    Wounds throughout the body,
    Lack of interest or desire,
    Issues related to arousal,
    Weight loss.

    Chemotherapy Drugs

    Cancer treatment drugs can be taken orally or administered through injection. They can also be used intravenously. After being mixed with a saline solution, cancer treatment drugs are delivered through the vein at varying intervals during the treatment. Patients undergoing long-term drug-based cancer treatment may require hospitalization, and issues related to venous access may arise later in the treatment.

    Since cancer treatment drugs need to be administered slowly over a long treatment plan, patients often have catheters or ports implanted in their bodies to directly deliver the drugs into a vein. Some patients can receive drug-based cancer treatment in the comfort of their own homes by taking the medications orally.

    It is important to be familiar with the proper administration of these drugs, and if you are unsure about any aspect, you should consult a medical professional. When it comes to treatment, orally taken pills at home are equivalent to injections made through veins.

    If tablets are taken improperly or inappropriately, the effectiveness of the treatment may be compromised. While localized drug-based cancer treatment applications can treat certain parts of the body, other areas require the administration of cancer treatment drugs through veins or orally.

    For example, the digestive, respiratory, and urinary systems are examples of such areas. Only a medical oncologist in a facility specifically designed for oncology and equipped with all the necessary resources can provide these treatments.

    Non-surgical Molecular Therapy

    Molecular therapies are crucial for patients with certain types of cancer that are not suitable for surgery, as they can prolong survival and improve quality of life. When molecules that detect cancer are injected into a vein or administered orally, they target the affected area.

    For example, liver tumors can be treated with microscopic beads carrying high-energy radioactive yttrium-90, which can lead to disease regression and extended survival through treatments that cause minimal damage to healthy tissues and eliminate tumor cells.

    Neuroendocrine tumors can occur in various internal organs, making them candidates for radiotherapy. Actinium and lutetium, both of which are molecular therapies, are among the most promising alternatives for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer and these tumors.

    When injected intravenously, radioactive peptides settle in cancer cells and release high doses of radiation, effectively killing malignant tissue. In patients with extensive malignancies and little hope for surgery, these treatments can halt the progression of the disease.

    In the case of thyroid cancer, radioactive iodine treatment, also known as "atomic therapy" or "radionuclide therapy," is a commonly used approach. Most individuals with this type of cancer undergo surgery, and the treatment is taken orally as a pill or liquid.

    The content of the page is for informational purposes only, please consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

    Medical Oncology

    Assoc. Prof. M.D.

    Emrah ERASLAN

    Koru Ankara Hastanesi