When a person has cancer, some abnormal cells in the body start dividing in an uninhibited way and spread to the other parts of the body.
When the cancer remains restrained to the specific place it began, it is called a primary tumour. In contrast, when the cancer cells spread to the other parts of the body, it is called metastasis or secondary tumour.
Depending on which stage of cancer has been detected, the treatment plans may vary. It also depends on other factors like the type of cancer, age of the patient, medical history etc.
Some well-known treatments for cancer are surgery, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, etc.
Chemotherapy treatment is one of the most widely known and commonly prescribed procedures to fight cancer.
During this procedure, the patient is injected with a drug, which travels throughout the body, destroying the cancer cells and preventing them from spreading to other body parts.
Chemotherapy is recommended both for curing cancer and controlling it. In some cases, chemotherapy is also recommended as palliative care when cancer has been diagnosed at later stages and is out of control.
Many doctors do not use the word ‘cure’ while treating cancer because there is always a possibility of cancer recurring after being eliminated from the body.
While chemotherapy has been known to cure cancer completely, it takes several sessions to do so. The patient is also expected to incorporate some lifestyle changes to prevent cancer from reappearing.
Chemotherapy can be facilitated in two ways: intravenous chemo and oral chemo.
- During intravenous chemotherapy, the chemical is introduced into the body by injecting it into the vein. The drug then travels throughout the body, killing the cancer cells. It must be performed in a hospital and involves several side effects.
- Oral chemotherapy involves the patients taking chemo tablets. They do not need to be present at the hospital while taking the medication. However, they would be expected to make regular hospital visits for check-ups and monitoring.
Types of chemotherapy drugs
The major types of chemotherapy drugs are plant alkaloids, mitotic inhibitors, anti-tumour antibiotics, topoisomerase inhibitors, antimetabolites, etc.
Chemotherapy uses more than 100 drugs to kill cancer and prevent remission. Each drug attacks the cancer cells differently. Our oncologists determine which drug is the best option for patients based on the following factors:
- Cancer type
- Cancer stage
- Medical history (if any)
- Overall body health
- Body weight
- Previous cancer treatments (if any)
- Side effects of each drug
- of sessions required
- Cost of the drug
When the chemotherapy drugs travel throughout the body killing cancerous cells, they also kill some healthy cells in the process or slow their growth.
Some cells which are adversely affected during this process are blood cells, skin cells, hair cells, and intestinal lining cells.
The other side effects of chemotherapy include:
- Fever and cold
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Constant vomiting
- Nerve damage
- Constipation and diarrhoea
- Nail colour change
- Mouth sores and dry mouth
The number of chemotherapy procedures a patient needs depends on various factors like the type of cancer, stage of cancer, medical history, age, gender, etc.
Oral chemotherapy involves taking a medicine daily for several weeks before taking a rest for a short duration. For intravenous chemotherapy, there is a rest period between each session.
Intravenous chemo is more invasive compared to oral chemo; hence, the body needs time to recover after each session. The rest period also allows the affected healthy cells to recover and go back to normal.
During chemotherapy treatment, patients will be expected to meet their oncologist regularly. The oncologist will closely monitor the results of chemotherapy and might suggest more scans to understand the situation better.
After analysing all the factors closely, the doctor will determine how well the patient is responding to the treatment.
Each chemotherapy cycle can leave patients feeling weak and sick. Hence, it is recommended they prepare themselves before beginning treatment.
Here are some tips:
- Take a break from work. Do not force yourself to work while undergoing treatment.
- Get friends or family to accompany you during each chemo cycle.
- Prepare your house. Stock up on groceries and other things you need.
- Make sure all the medicines you need after the chemo session are available
- Anticipate the side effects and be mentally ready to deal with them.
- Join a support group.
- Ask your doctor to provide you with a diet plan.
The cost of chemotherapy varies greatly. It might not be affordable for many patients. It is best to liaise with an insurance company while undergoing chemo and other cancer treatments.
Some factors on which chemotherapy costs can vary are:
- Type of chemo drug used
- Number of chemo sessions required
- Where the patient lives
- The reputation of the oncologist and the hospital
Our oncologist will recommend the best options available. However, we understand undergoing chemotherapy can be a scary process.
Patients might have several questions and queries in mind and would want to prepare themselves as much as possible. In-depth information will allow them to prepare themselves both emotionally and physically.
Here are some questions patients can ask:
- Which chemotherapy drug is best for me and why?
- Where will I get the chemotherapy treatment?
- How long does each session take?
- What are the chances of chemotherapy working?
- What are my other options if this doesn’t work?
- Can I have my friends or family with me while receiving the treatment?
- What are the side effects of chemo?
- Should I take some supplements while underdoing treatment?
- Will my health insurance cover the cost?
Medical science has advanced greatly, and various drugs are being introduced to cure cancer all over the world. Accessing personalised treatment plans to treat cancer is now possible.
Patients looking for professional oncologists who can offer great professional advice and cutting-edge cancer treatment can visit the C.K. Birla Hospital or book an appointment with Dr Harsimran Singh