What Is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs are typically administered into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body to reach cancer cells in various locations. Chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cells' ability to grow and divide, ultimately leading to their death.
Chemotherapy is often used in combination with other treatments, such as radiation therapy or surgery, and is typically used to shrink a tumor before surgery, or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. It can also be used to relieve symptoms, slow the progression of the cancer, or as a primary treatment for some types of cancers.
It's important to understand that chemotherapy can also cause side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, hair loss, and a decreased ability to fight infection. These side effects are usually temporary, but it's important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of chemotherapy with your doctor to determine if it is the best option for your specific situation.
How Does Chemotherapy Work?
Chemotherapy works by interfering with the normal processes that allow cancer cells to grow and divide. Cancer cells grow and divide much more rapidly than normal cells, and chemotherapy drugs target these rapidly dividing cells in order to kill them.
There are different types of chemotherapy drugs that work in different ways, but most work by one of the following mechanisms:
Interfering with DNA: Some chemotherapy drugs interfere with the ability of cancer cells to replicate their DNA, which is essential for cell division and growth.
Disrupting cell division: Other drugs interfere with the process of cell division, preventing the cancer cells from dividing and spreading.
Targeting cell metabolism: Some drugs target the metabolic processes of cancer cells, depriving them of the energy they need to grow and divide.
While chemotherapy can be effective in killing cancer cells, it can also damage healthy cells that are rapidly dividing, such as those in the bone marrow, digestive system, and hair follicles. This can lead to side effects, such as fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and increased risk of infection.
It's important to discuss the potential benefits and risks of chemotherapy with your doctor to determine if it is the best option for your specific situation. Your doctor can help you understand how chemotherapy will be tailored to your individual needs and what to expect during treatment.
How Do I Prepare For Chemotherapy Treatment?
Here are some steps you can take to prepare for chemotherapy treatment:
Discuss treatment options with your doctor: Before starting chemotherapy, it's important to have a discussion with your doctor about the potential benefits and risks, as well as what to expect during treatment. Your doctor can also answer any questions you may have about the treatment process.
Make arrangements for transportation: Chemotherapy treatments can take several hours, so it's important to arrange for transportation to and from the treatment center. Consider asking a friend or family member for help, or using a ride-sharing service.
Plan for side effects: Chemotherapy can cause side effects, such as fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and increased risk of infection. Plan ahead to manage these side effects and make sure you have the resources you need to stay comfortable during treatment.
Discuss medications with your doctor: If you are taking any medications, including over-the-counter medications or supplements, it's important to discuss these with your doctor. Some medications can interact with chemotherapy drugs and should be avoided or adjusted before treatment.
Keep a record of your treatment schedule: It's important to keep a record of your treatment schedule and any side effects you experience during treatment. This information can be helpful for your doctor and can also help you keep track of your progress over time.
Consider support: Chemotherapy can be physically and emotionally challenging, so consider reaching out to friends, family members, or a support group for help and support.
It's important to follow your doctor's instructions and to ask any questions you may have before, during, and after chemotherapy treatment. Your doctor and medical team will work with you to ensure that you have the support and resources you need to manage your treatment and recovery.
How Intravenous (IV) Chemotherapy Drugs Are Given
Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy drugs are administered directly into a patient's bloodstream through a vein, usually in the arm. The process usually involves the following steps:
Preparation: The healthcare provider will clean the area where the IV will be inserted and wrap a band around the upper arm to help find a vein.
Insertion: The healthcare provider will insert a needle into a vein and thread a small tube (catheter) into the vein, which will remain in place for the duration of the treatment.
Administration: The chemotherapy drug is mixed with a fluid and delivered through the IV, either as a continuous infusion or as intermittent doses over a set period of time. The patient may feel a cool sensation as the drug enters their bloodstream.
Monitoring: The healthcare provider will monitor the patient for any adverse reactions and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment.
Removal: After the treatment is completed, the healthcare provider will remove the needle and catheter and apply a bandage to the injection site.
It's important to note that the specific process and duration of IV chemotherapy treatment can vary depending on the type and dose of the drug being administered, as well as the individual patient's medical history and condition.