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Chemotherapy is a way of treating cancer that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It works by stopping cancer cells from growing and dividing into more cells.

Chemotherapy is a way of treating cancer that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It works by stopping cancer cells from growing and dividing into more cells. Because cancer cells usually grow and divide faster than healthy cells, Chemotherapy kills them faster than most healthy cells.
Usually, healthy cell division is regulated by control mechanisms that tell the cell when to divide and when to remain stable. Malignant tumors are made up of cells that have these altered control mechanisms, and without this regulation, the cells can multiply out of control, affecting other organs.

Chemotherapy Goals:
The goals of Chemotherapy depend on the type of cancer and how much it has spread. Sometimes the main goal is to destroy all of cancer and prevent it from coming back. If this is not possible, Chemotherapy may slow or stop cancer from growing.
If your Oncologist recommends Chemotherapy as a treatment option for your type of cancer, three of the main goals of this cancer treatment are
  • Cure: Chemotherapy is given with curative intent when it is a possible or expected outcome of treatment, although this outcome is not always achieved, the goal is to destroy cancer and prevent it from returning
  • Palliation: Chemotherapy is intended to control the symptoms produced by the tumor. That is to say, in those cases where the cancer is in an advanced stage, the primary objective of Chemotherapy is to improve the patient's quality of life.
  • Control: in these cases, the objective of Chemotherapy is to keep the disease as under control as possible, preventing the growth or spread of cancer. 

Chemotherapy may also be indicated for diseases other than cancer, such as bone marrow diseases and immune system disorders.

Where can chemotherapy treatment be received?

Your health care team can provide Chemotherapy in different settings depending on your situation. Still, it can be in the doctor's office, at the hospital, or even at home in some specific cases.

How long does it last?

This depends a lot on the type of cancer you have and how advanced it is.

Chemotherapy is usually given for a specific time, such as 6 months or a year. Once a period for Chemotherapy has been agreed upon with your doctor, it is best not to skip any treatment.

The side effects of many drugs are too strong to give treatment every day. Doctors usually provide these drugs with breaks, so you have time to rest and recover before your next treatment. This allows your healthy cells to heal.

How are Chemotherapy drugs given?

They can be given in different ways, for example:

  • Intravenous Chemotherapy: Many drugs require an injection directly into a vein in your arm or into a device in a vein in your chest. The treatment takes from a few minutes to a few hours.
  • Oral Chemotherapy: Some drugs can be taken by mouth. It can be pills or liquid. Oral cancer treatment is now more common, as many of the drugs used for targeted therapy work this way. Some of these drugs are given daily, and others are given less often.
  • Injected Chemotherapy: You receive Chemotherapy through a needle-like a regular injection.
  • Chemotherapy in an artery: Also known as intra-arterial Chemotherapy. An artery is a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to another part of the body. Sometimes, Chemotherapy is injected into an artery that goes directly to cancer.
  • Topical Chemotherapy: There are creams or gels containing Chemotherapy drugs applied to the skin to treat certain types of skin cancer.

Will I feel bad during Chemotherapy?

There's no way to know this for sure. Many factors affect it, depending on your overall health, the type of cancer you have, the type of chemotherapy drugs, the length of time, and the amount. Also, your genes play a role in how you will feel during Chemotherapy.

Commonly, a patient may feel very tired or sick after Chemotherapy. Because chemotherapy drugs travel through the blood, this treatment can damage some healthy cells. This is when side effects occur in some people who receive Chemotherapy, such as
  • Dry mouth or mouth sores
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Increased chance of infection
  • Hair loss
  • Problems thinking and remembering

Some measures can be taken at home, which your Oncologist will indicate to you to prevent or treat the side effects, such as
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Be careful with pets or other animals that can cause an infection
  • Eating enough protein and calories to maintain a healthy weight
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Stay hydrated

Will I be able to continue working during my Chemotherapy treatment?

It depends on how your body reacts to the drugs and the type of work you do. You may have to ask to work fewer hours or be allowed to work from home on days when you are not feeling well. 

Results of Chemotherapy

Usually, while you are undergoing Chemotherapy or at the end of it, your Oncologist will ask you to perform some tests that will allow him/her to know if the tumor has responded positively (diminished, disappeared, or is stable) to the Chemotherapy.
Your Oncologist will also ask you about the side effects you are experiencing since many times; some can be controlled.
Don't hesitate to ask your Doctor about the results of the tests and about whether adjustments in treatment are needed as the disease evolves.

BlueNetHospitals - Hospital Los Cabos

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