What Is Chemotherapy? Who Is It for and How Is It Administered?
Chemotherapy is the name given to the process that most damages cancer cells in the entire range of treatment methods available. In most people’s eyes, chemotherapy is synonymous with losing all one’s hair and eyebrows. Although the patient may lose hair during the treatment process, it regrows after chemotherapy. Most inconveniencies experienced during chemotherapy are only temporary. Many patients and their relatives may mistakenly think that all the symptoms and discomfort they feel after chemotherapy are due to the cancer. Thinking “this is what the disease did to me” is a common misinterpretation that can create an unnecessary sensation of failure. In fact, all the hardships one faces are just traces of the tough and challenging process of the body fighting a formidable disease.
Chemotherapy is a battle in which your body attacks and weakens cancer, and not the other way around. Explaining this to the patient during treatment will help the patient maintain their mental and physical strength and resilience. Chemotherapy involves killing cancer cells with very powerful drugs that are sensitive to their reproductivity. Chemotherapy targets cells that divide and multiply very rapidly, because cancer cells characteristically divide and proliferate rapidly. Unlike surgical procedures or radiotherapy whose impact are limited to the site of application, the drugs reach the entire body via the bloodstream after their administration.
The doubts we have expressed about the effect of alternative methods on chemotherapy also apply to traditional medication. Some drugs may interact with chemotherapeutic agents to increase or decrease the effectiveness of one another. Patients should firstly consult with their oncologist before using drugs administered by other doctors, or drugs and herbs recommended on TV or social media. The treatment may involve a single drug or the combination of several drugs. Combination drugs influence different stages of the cell division cycle and are likely to increase their effectiveness in this way. Which drugs are to be used for treatment depends on factors such as the type of tumor, its location, prevalence, the age and general condition of the patient, and whether other underlying diseases are present. The duration of drug therapy and its frequency are determined by a medical oncologist according to the condition of the patient and the disease progression. If chemotherapy is being administered alone, it is usually given every 3–4 weeks. When administered in combination with radiotherapy, it can be given weekly or daily. Attention must be paid to how often the medications are administered in order to prevent side effects for the patient. On the other hand, waiting too long between doses may leave time for the tumor to recover. Chemotherapy should be administered by a trained specialist, nurse and medical staff in a hygienic environment with special consideration paid to medical principles.
Chemotherapy is used to:
• Treat cancer
• Shrink a tumor before surgery or radiotherapy
• Prevent the recovery and spread of a tumor after surgery or radiotherapy
Enhance the impact of radiotherapy, which we call the “radiosensitizing effect” • Reduce patient complaints • Extend a patient’s lifespan by keeping the cancer under control for a while