There are several factors to consider in determining the best treatment of cancer for any given patient. Age, family history, location of the cancerous tissue, whether or not the cancer is isolated to a single area, lifecycle of the disease and more can aid physicians in presenting the most effective treatments. One of the more common treatments for this deadly disease is chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is a treatment of cancer that uses highly concentrated doses of powerful medications to attack cancerous cells and prevent them from multiplying. Chemotherapy is administered via oral medications or intravenous injections and can destroy the DNA of cancer cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy medications can harm healthy cells during the process of treatment, and that is why it is vital for physicians to monitor the patient closely during treatment.
Chemotherapy drugs are a powerful treatment of cancer because they impair cell division within fast-dividing cells. In fact, some of these drugs cause cells to “self destruct.” This is one reason why hair loss and gastrointestinal problems are so common with chemotherapy patients. Since these drugs do not discriminate between healthy and abnormal cells, they can affect fast-dividing cells responsible for hair growth and replacing the lining of the gut.
IV: The Most Common Delivery Method
The delivery method of this treatment of cancer depends on the situation, but intravenous therapy is the most common. This treatment may be administered on an inpatient or outpatient basis. For patients that require prolonged chemotherapy, various delivery systems may be surgically implanted because they typically have a far lower risk of causing infections. Lymphomas are particularly responsive to this treatment option.
Common Chemotherapy Drugs
Some of the more common chemotherapy drugs include:
The different types of chemotherapy drugs all work in different ways, but most of them specifically target the DNA of cells. Chemotherapy is a popular postoperative treatment of cancer because it can prevent tumors from growing and even reduce their size–making it easier for surgeons to remove them. This treatment is also used postoperatively to prevent cancerous cells from returning.
Chemotherapy as a Treatment of Cancer: The Side Effects
Chemotherapy drugs are known for having a wide variety of side effects. Some of the more common ones include hair loss, anemia, gastrointestinal problems, immune system deficiency and a reduction in overall red and white blood cell count. Because chemotherapy is known to weaken the immune system, a number of secondary infections may occur during or shortly after treatment. The secondary infections may require additional medication therapy and, in more extreme cases, heart damage, liver damage, brain damage, and kidney damage may occur.
New Approaches to Chemotherapy as a Treatment of Cancer
This treatment utilizes an extremely high dose of chemotherapy that is focused exclusively on the tumor and minimizes systemic damage to the rest of the body. Isolated infusion can be effective, but it does not treat cancer that has spread into other systems.
In an effort to reduce the overall toxicity of chemotherapy and increase its affect on the tumor sites, targeted delivery systems have been developed. Many of these contain a targeting component and a “payload” that is designed to attack the tumor. A payload may consist of a radioactive material, chemotherapy agent or other therapeutic agents. Targeted delivery mechanisms may be utilized for patients who are weaker because they do not attack systemically.
This treatment of cancer combines intravenous chemotherapy medications and electric pulses concentrated on the tumor. Electrochemotherapy helps medications that would otherwise be unable to reach the membranes of cancer cells. There is still much research to be done on this treatment of cancer, but it appears to be quite promising.
Chemotherapy is either administered with a curative intent or as a means of improving the quality of life in patients. Typically, chemotherapy is combined with surgery or radiation therapy to increase the effectiveness of the overall treatment. Some forms of cancer can become resistant to certain drugs and this is another reason why it is sometimes important to develop a multi faceted approach.
Despite being a popular treatment of cancer, chemotherapy is not always successful in eliminating the disease. Patients should be aware of the limits and risks associated with this particular treatment option for they begin. Treating cancer requires a team of dedicated medical professionals that may include primary care physicians, oncologists, radiation therapists, surgeons and more. To learn more about chemotherapy as a treatment of cancer, please visit http://www.CancerTreatmentToday.org.