That dreaded diagnosis and what you feel inside when you are told you have cancer. You are scared and face the fight of your life. You will hear about medical terminology that you never have heard of before. You have made the decision to go forward and fight the cancer. A clear explanation about chemotherapy will assist you in dealing with a very difficult period of your life. Treatments are getting better and more cures are found every day, hope will become your best friend.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses certain medications to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy’s action is to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells that divide and grow quickly. The problem with chemotherapy is that it also harms your healthy cells. The healthy cells that are targeted by chemotherapy are specifically those that line your mouth, your small and large intestine and the cells that cause hair growth.
Chemotherapy treatments are dependent on the type of cancer that you have and what stage it is at. Chemotherapy can cure cancer, which means that the chemotherapy has destroyed all the cancer cells and they cannot be found anywhere in your body and will not grow back. Chemotherapy can also be used to control cancer which means it stops the cancer from spreading or slows its growth. This treatment also can be effective in destroying cancer cells that have spread to other parts of your body. Another way chemotherapy is used is to alleviate cancer symptoms by shrinking any tumors that are causing pain or pressure. Another name for this type of chemotherapy is palliative care.
Sometimes you will receive chemotherapy along with surgery, or radiation. Chemotherapy can be used to make tumors smaller before you have surgery or start radiation treatments. Chemotherapy treatment can be used to destroy cells that remain after you have surgery or radiation treatments. Chemotherapy also can be used to destroy cancer cells that have come back or spread to other parts of your body.
The doctor will choose which type of drugs to use. . Chemotherapy can be done while you are an inpatient in the hospital or at a doctor’s office or outpatient clinic. You will be closely monitored and any adjustments in your treatment will be made if the response is not what the physician wants or if you are having side effects from the drug treatment. Chemotherapy treatment schedules can be varied depending on your type of cancer and your response to the chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is given in cycles to give your body rest periods in order to grow healthy new cells.
Chemotherapy can be given in a variety of ways:
1. Injection – given by a shot to a muscle area in your arm,thigh, hip or the fatty area in your stomach.
2. Intravenous – The medication is given through an IV that goes directly into a vein.
3.Intra-arterial – The medication is given directly into an artery that is feeding the cancer.
4. Intraperitoneal- Medication is given directly into the peritoneal cavity which is the area that contains the organs ( intestines,stomach,ovaries,liver).
5. Topically – Medication that is a cream that is rubbed on your skin.
6. Orally -Medication comes in pills or liquids that you take orally by swallowing.
The decision to keep on working will be based on how you are feeling. It will also depend on the type of job that you have. Talk to your employer before you start your chemotherapy treatments, many times adjustments can be made to your work schedule. There are laws in place that employers have to follow if you have to miss work. Sometimes you can reduce your work hours and work part time. Your doctor will be monitoring you during this period and you will have frequent physical exams and medical tests to monitor the effectiveness of your treatment. Your attitude and willingness to fight is vital to your outcomes. Keep yourself informed and seek advice when you need it, you are not alone in your fight.