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Overview

Chemotherapy - Treatment, Procedure And Side Effects

What is the treatment?

Chemotherapy is used in the treatment of cancer. There are a wide variety of drugs that are used in this method of treatment. Since cancer involves cell division, chemotherapy works to counter this effect by destroying the cancerous cells. In cases where surgery is used to remove the cancer is ineffective, the oncologist will recommend the treatment of chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is sometimes used in conjunction with radiation and surgery in the treatment of cancer. It might be used to destroy the cancerous cells that remain after radiation therapy or even in order to shrink a cancerous growth before surgery or radiation therapy. The treatment is effective in decreasing the number of cancerous cells in the body and also helps to manage the symptoms of cancer.

While chemotherapy is an effective method of treatment, cancer cannot be cured completely. The chance of recurrence of cancer is always a possibility.

There are various side effects that occur after the course of chemotherapy treatment. The side effects that occur during the course of chemotherapy are relatively few.

Chemotherapy is administered in a course or a series of sessions that vary from person to person. The course could be every day for a week or once a week over a period of 8 weeks. It is also possible for the course to last several months. The variation of the time period for a course of chemotherapy depends on the recommendation from the oncologist and according to the drug being administered.

How is the treatment done?

Chemotherapy is an aggressive form of treatment wherein the drug attacks the cancer cells and destroys them. This form of treatment is administered in a number of ways. It could be given to the patient intravenously or as a tablet or even injected into the skin. A cycle of chemotherapy could be given on a daily basis for a week. Then the patient is given a resting period of two-three weeks before continuing with another cycle. Therefore one cycle could last for 3-4 weeks. However, the length of these cycles differs according to the type of drug and the patient.

When the drug is administered intravenously; a nurse will insert a needle into the vein in your arm which allows the chemo drug to drip through the IV. This happens at each session of the cycle of chemotherapy treatment. After the drug has been administered the nurse will then remove the needle. This process can take a few hours per session. The patient may experience exhaustion and fatigue during the session.

If it is a capsule or a tablet then the drug is given orally. You will be asked to swallow the pill and flush it down with a glass of water. The chemotherapy drug can also be administered directly to the affected organs or directly to an affected artery. In some cases, the drug can be injected into the skin, arm, leg or hip of the patient.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

The eligibility for the treatment of cancer with chemotherapy depends on the following criteria:

  • Most patients with breast cancer are eligible for chemotherapy, except in certain cases according to the discretion of the oncologist. Patients with 3rd or 4th stage of cancer can be treated with chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy is the best form of treatment for patients when the cancer cells have spread throughout the body and in the bloodstream or within the lymphatic system.
  • There is no particular age limit for chemotherapy. While patients who are elderly might be prone to additional side effects, chemotherapy is effective in treating patients of all ages.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

The medical professional in charge of the treatment will decide whether or not you are eligible for chemotherapy treatment. In general, chemotherapy is used to treat various types of cancer. But in certain cases, chemotherapy might not be advisable. They are -

  • Pregnant women in their first trimester are not eligible for chemotherapy. After the first trimester, they can safely proceed with this treatment.
  • Chemotherapy is usually not for people who suffer from cancer which does not spread quickly.

Are there any side effects?

The side effects of chemotherapy are as follows:

  • Nausea and vomiting: Patients often experience these symptoms after each chemotherapy session.
  • Exhaustion and fatigue: It is normal to experience fatigue, weakness, and exhaustion for a while after the treatment has been administered.
  • Hair loss: One of the most evident side effects of chemotherapy is the loss of hair. Sometimes patients bald gradually, while others might not lose much hair. In many cases, the hair grows back after the treatment is over.
  • Minor symptoms like fever, weight loss, constipation are commonly experienced after chemotherapy treatment.
  • Patients may notice changes in their skin or nails and have bleeding gums or mouth sores. After chemotherapy patients bruise easily, experience changes in their sense of taste, nerve damage and even loss of appetite.
  • Certain major side effects include; problems with fertility, memory problems or heart disorders.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

The guidelines that you should follow after the treatment of chemotherapy are:

  • Post-treatment patients suffer from sensitivity to sunlight. They should avoid direct sun exposure and use sunscreen for protection.
  • To deal with hair loss, you can use a wig to cover your head or cut your hair short.
  • It is important to eat healthy food and eat five short meals rather than three full meals in a day.
  • According to the doctor’s recommendation, you must take the medications as prescribed.
  • You can practice meditation and relaxing techniques. But it is important to stay active and exercise as much as possible, without straining yourself.

How long does it take to recover?

The amount of time it takes to recover depends on various factors such as stage of cancer, type of cancer, type of treatment and number of sessions. But on an average, the chemotherapy treatment lasts for about 2 to 6 months. Recovery at the end of the treatment can take a few weeks to a month.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The price of each chemotherapy session can range from Rs 15,000 to Rs 1, 00,000. Each patient might have to undergo a series of around 6 to 8 sessions or any number of sessions that the oncologist recommends.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The results of chemotherapy are not permanent since there is always a possibility of cancer to recur. Numerous studies show that patients have gone into remission after treatment with chemotherapy and surgery. The survival rate for cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy is relatively high.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

The alternative methods of treatment of cancer besides chemotherapy are radiation therapy, surgery, homeopathic medicines.

Safety: Medium Effectiveness: Medium Timeliness: Low Relative Risk: High Side Effects: High Recovery Time: High Price Range: Rs. 15,000 - Rs. 1, 00,000

Popular Health Tips

APML - Is Chemotherapy The Only Way Out?

Dr. Mukul Gharote 88% (25 ratings)
MBBS, DM - Oncology, MD - General Medicine
Oncologist, Nashik
APML - Is Chemotherapy The Only Way Out?
There are more than hundred varieties of blood cancer, but the most common ones are leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of leukemia, is when the white blood cells in the marrow begin to grow uncontrollably. This is an acute condition and both the onset and progress are very rapid. The cause is not known, and given the rapid progress, even treatment is often difficult. A more severe form of AML is the APML which is acute promyelocytic leukemia, which leads to reduced number of white and red blood cells and plasma. This causes the following symptoms: Anemia Increased incidence of infections Excessive bleeding from even minor cuts Bleeding from nose and gums Easy bruising Blood in the urine Extreme paleness and tiredness What is different about APML? There is one distinguishing factor with APML, which is that they contain a protein which when released into the bloodstream can cause severe bleeding, which may be very difficult to control. Chemotherapy kills these cells and so releases the proteins into the bloodstream. These cells need to be managed without chemotherapy, as the patient can even die of uncontrolled bleeding. With medical advances, two non-chemotherapy agents have been identified all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA, vesanoid, or tretinoin) and arsenic trioxide (ATO or trisenox). ATRA: This is a type of vitamin A which is used either alone, in combination with chemo, in combination with arsenic trioxide, and also in combination with both chemo and arsenic trioxide. The effect is different in different people helps control spread, helps prevent recurrence, and helps control symptoms. In many people, it has been successfully used instead of chemotherapy. ATRA is also used as a long-term maintenance agent. Side effects from ATRA include fever, dry skin, rashes, mouth sores, increased cholesterol, and swollen feet. These go away with stoppage of the drug. ATO: Arsenic is poisonous when given in large amounts. However, it was discovered that it could be used to treat APML with effects similar to ATRA. It is used alone, in combination with chemotherapy, with ATRA, or with both. It helps control the growth of cells and also helps in long-term maintenance therapy. ATO dosage needs to be monitored as it can cause heart rhythm issues. With both these drugs, there is a significant side effect, known as differentiation syndrome. Often seen during the first cycle of treatment, this happens when the leukemia cells release a protein into the blood. Symptoms include fever, breathing, kidney damage, and severe fluid buildup. With these two drugs being widely used effectively, chemotherapy is not the only treatment option for APML.
2 people found this helpful

Sex & Chemotherapy - 3 Associated Problems

Dr. Dinesh Kumar Jagpal 94% (64966 ratings)
MBBS
Sexologist, Panchkula
Sex & Chemotherapy - 3 Associated Problems
Cancer is the scourge of the modern era with increasing cases being reported by a significant percentage of the population with the passage of time. With the ever increasing incidences, the number of patients being treated with chemotherapy is also on the rise. This treatment however does come with its own disadvantages and although it may be effective in curing cancer, its side effects may render a patient incapable of leading a normal life for the duration of the treatment. What exactly is Chemotherapy? Chemotherapy is a process by which cancer cells in the body are destroyed with the use of chemical drugs. Although it is an effective form of treatment, it has many side effects as it can affect good cells as well. This is one of the main reasons hair cells may die out temporarily and a person undergoing chemotherapy may lose hair. Sex and chemotherapy Although sessions of chemotherapy can damage a person's libido it may be possible to have sex keeping certain precautions in mind. Here are certain possibilities and problems associated with sex while undergoing chemotherapy. Possibilities 1. It is possible to have sex while undergoing chemotherapy if the concerned doctor says that it won't harm the patient in any way. 2. If your doctor says you can have sex then you are in the clear, but it is very important to gauge the situation yourself along with your doctor and go ahead only if chemotherapy is successful. Problems 1. The main problem is that the patient may not have the energy or the desire to have sex as chemotherapy can be taxing on the body. However, if you want to and the doctor says it won't cause problems, you can go ahead with it. 2. Usually doctors ask patients to abstain from sex if the cancer being treated is within the genitalia. Friction during sex may cause issues within the organs and only and only if proper healing has occurred should the patients consider sex. 3. Certain types of chemotherapy may change the lining of the vaginal walls and thus make them more prone to injury during vaginal sex and thus should be abstained from. Also with chemotherapy, the white blood cell count tends to be reduced within the body and this may leave it vulnerable to bacterial infections which may come from the partner during sex. Moreover, It is advisable not to conceive while receiving chemotherapy, whether the cancer is with the man and most definitely when it is with the woman. Chemotherapy may cause acute imbalances within the body and may seriously affect the development of the baby and especially the mother, if she has cancer.
7432 people found this helpful

Interventional Radiology - How It Can Help In Cancer Treatment?

Dr. Tegbir Singh Sidhu 86% (18 ratings)
MBBS, Diploma in Medical Radio Diagnosis (DMRD), MD
Radiologist, Mohali
Interventional Radiology - How It Can Help In Cancer Treatment?
With cancer on the rise, there is a constant search for ways to treat it without having to resort to surgery. One such discovery is interventional radiology (IR). This is a sub-specialty of radiology where minimally invasive techniques are used to diagnose and treat diseases in many organs. Interventional radiology (IR) is used to: Manage pain and complications Perform biopsies Overall symptom management Manage metastatic disease Features: Image-guided treatment Minimally invasive, so less pain and easy recovery Improved accuracy compared to an open surgical procedure IR Procedures: Some of the common IR procedures performed to help manage cancer are listed below with brief descriptions. Ablation: Tumor ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses extremes of temperature. This procedure can be used to manage symptoms and to treat the tumor. Radiofrequency waves are commonly used and the target organs are lungs, liver, and spine. Chemoembolization: A minimally invasive approach, especially for deep-seated cancers such as liver. This involves delivering the chemotherapy directly into the artery which is feeding the cancer. The chemotherapy is also combined with blocking agents known as emboli, which improves the success rate of the attack on the cancer cells. Angiography: This procedure involves mapping the blood vessels. This can help identify abnormal enlargement or narrowing of vessels and blockages. This is done by injecting a dye into the blood vessels, which can then be imaged or viewed through an X-ray scanner. Biopsies: Thin needles are inserted into the affected organ to remove portions of tissue. This can help in confirming diagnosis, and in cases of very small lesions, even complete removal is possible. Pain management: Cancer is notorious for causing bone and joint pains as the growing tumor presses on the surrounding tissues. Where routine pain killers do not work, injections into the joint space are required. IR helps in this area by directing the injections into the appropriate spaces. Catheter placement: Where there is need for constant draining of fluids from cancers, IR is used for appropriate placement of catheters. Port placement: In patients who need to be given chemotherapy for prolonged periods, ports are placed which act as injection sites without the need for multiple pricks. What can the patient expect? These are done as outpatient procedures, often in the morning Do not eat or drink in the morning Take your prescription medications with water alone Arrange for transport so you can return home as driving is not allowed Confirm any other specific instructions or advice with the lab performing this procedure. The role of IR in managing cancer is only set to expand in the coming years.
1 person found this helpful

Modern Day Targeted Chemotherapy & Cancer Care!

Dr. Mukul Gharote 88% (25 ratings)
MBBS, DM - Oncology, MD - General Medicine
Oncologist, Nashik
Modern Day Targeted Chemotherapy & Cancer Care!
In the past, cancer was a disease that could not be cured. It was a threat to mankind. But as science has developed tremendously through all these years, today it is possible to fight cancer. Cancer therapies have evolved with time. Until the late 90s, most of the drugs worked by killing the cancer cells. Some of the normal cells were also killed by them, but it was acceptable due to the huge effect on cancer cells. In modern days, targeted therapies are being performed. Targeted therapy is a process of cancer treatment where instead of the cancer cells, the changes in the cells are targeted. Changes that help the cells grow, divide and thus spread cancer have been observed and so researchers can diagnose the right treatment that can block these affects and prevent cancer. This therapy uses drugs and it is different from traditional chemotherapy. There are two types of Targeted therapy. Small-molecule drugs: These drugs are small so that they can enter cells easily and target the changes inside the cells. They are taken as pills. They work by keeping the tissue around the tumor and starve it by stopping blood vessels that bring it nutrients. Monoclonal antibodies: These are used to target the outer surface of cancer cells. They work like a plastic plug in an electric socket. They help chemotherapy and radiation therapy to cure cancer cells. Fields: Targeted therapies are used in the fields below Breast cancer Lung cancer Colorectal cancer Melanoma Kidney cancers How It Works: Targeted therapy can be used as a treatment option for cancer in the following ways: Destroy cancer cells: Cancer cells hide well from the immune system. This therapy points them out so that the immune system can destroy them. It also boosts the immune system to work better. Stop cancer cells growth: This therapy interferes with the proteins that divides the cancer cells and thus controls their growth. Kill the tumor: Blood vessels feed the cancer tumor. This therapy surrounds the tumor and stops the blood supply so that the tumor does not grow and remains small. And if the tumor already has blood supply, then it kills the blood vessels and causes the tumor to shrink. Deliver cell-killing substances: It delivers the cell-killing substances to the cancer cells. They are the monoclonal antibodies that are combined with chemotherapy drugs, toxins and radiation. Cause cancer cell death: Cancer cells avoid the dying process. These therapies cause them to go through the process. Side Effects: Targeted therapies are less toxic than standard chemotherapy. So it is a better option but it still has some side effects. Diarrhea Liver problems Skin problems Problems with wound healing Difficulty with blood clotting High blood pressure Gastrointestinal perforation Even though it has some side effects, it is still way better and much more effective than traditional chemotherapy. So, cancer patients are advised to go through this modern-day therapy.
3062 people found this helpful

Understanding About FUE & FUT Technique!

Dr. Ashish Khare 85% (10 ratings)
MCh - Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, MBBS, MS - General Surgery, Fellowship Reconstructive Microsurgery
Cosmetic/Plastic Surgeon, Gurgaon
Understanding About FUE & FUT Technique!
Hair loss is one of the major cosmetic concerns, and this could be due to multiple causes, including heredity, stress, environmental pollutants, thyroid disease, chemotherapy and vitamin deficiency. However, with advancements in surgical procedures, hair loss can be treated effectively with hair transplantation. With premature hair loss becoming extremely common, the number of women and men going for hair transplantation is constantly on the rise. There are two main types of hair transplantation techniques i.e. follicular unit extraction and follicular unit transplantation abbreviated as FUE and FUT respectively. The hair has a root portion called the follicle, which is essential for hair growth. In both the hair transplant procedures, the follicles are replaced in the area of hair loss, allowing for regrowth of the hair. The results can vary depending on the type and quality of hair and other environmental and dietary factors. FUE: This involves the extraction of the hair follicles from the back of the head (or other donor sites like chest or back) using a small circular instrument. Over the next few days, this is then harvested and then placed back into the recipient area. This gets accepted in the new area and then new hair begins to grow after a few days. This entire procedure may need to be repeated until the desired results are achieved. There would be multiple, tiny, non-pigmented dots in the donor site, which may not be a significant cosmetic concern. FUE is often indicated in younger people who have shorter hair styles and have not previous hair transplants without very good results. FUT: Also known as follicular unit strip surgery, this involves removing areas of the scalp which have dense hair growth. A thin layer of the scalp of about 6 to 10 inches is removed and the scalp closed. This is then divided into multiple graft strips which are then transplanted into the recipient area. The surgeon creates holes through needles or a scalpel and then plants the grafts. Another sitting might be required to increase the density of the hair. This is a simple procedure where the hair from one part of the scalp is removed and transferred to the area where there is no hair. FUT is preferred by people who prefer a better quality of hair and slightly longer hair. In both cases, it is always advisable to talk to your doctor about what to expect and have realistic expectations about the results to expect. Response to the treatment can widely vary across people, and some may require more than one sitting if the desired results are not achieved. Seeing hair grow not just improves appearance but also improves self-image and confidence for a person.
2922 people found this helpful

Popular Questions & Answers

What is the best food to have after recovering from cancer and the chemotherapy process? Please tell about some vegetarian and vegan diets. Thank you.

Dr. Jatin Soni 93% (28523 ratings)
MBBS
General Physician, Mumbai
Few diet tips - Not to eat fried food items and Can eat All green vegetables, moong , chana , Dal , rice etc And to apply ghee over chappati and don’t apply oil over chappati And to drink milk mixed with turmeric powder twice a day And If possible eat eggs on alternate days And If possible in breakfast eat atleast one bajra ka rotla And Eat seasonal fruit

My father is having tongue tumor under left tongue. Doctor told my Father has cancer by the report FNAC. Is it confirmed report for cancer. He told for chemotherapy. Will it be good in the age of 77. Doctor is saying infection is spreading for tongue to lungs. Is there any side effect of chemotherapy. Is there any other option to treat in place of chemotherapy. Kindly suggest should we go for chemotherapy. Is medicine in chemotherapy is different in different hospital. Radiation specialist will give chemotherapy. Can he agile.

Dr. Vinod Goyal 92% (6163 ratings)
Ex Sen.V.Surgeon/Research Scientist, M.D.(Alternative Medicine/tibetan/chinese/acupuncture), Vaida/ Unani, Homeopath
Unani Specialist, Moga
Hi dear it is cancer, spreading to other body parts and soon it will spread to more body parts. Bcz of age and side effects- I do not recommend chemo. Ther are a variety of chemo drugs in different hospitals. Best course will be cancero medicine course.

What is chemotherapy. And what is acute myeloid leukemia good thing than did skid SK is SK hai Haydn JFK.

Dr. Kumar Sambhav 89% (1012 ratings)
MBBS
General Physician, Delhi
Hi, AML (acute myeloid leukemia) progresses rapidly, with myeloid cells interfering with the production of normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, recurrent infections and bruising of the body easily. Chemotherapy is treatment option, can be approved by a medical oncologist. Other treatment options are stem-cell transplants. Rest of your question is not clear.

Hi doctor, I was affected by lymphoma first stage past 5 years before. So I took chemotherapy and radiation. Now I'm perfectly cured from that. But I lose my hair. I did not have dense hair after I took chemotherapy and radiation. Is there is any possibility to get back my hair naturally or I have to move with plantation? Please suggest me. Now I'm only 25.

Dr. Komal Puri 91% (1526 ratings)
BAMS
Ayurveda, Zirakpur
Since Your hair fall is due to side effects of chemotherapy, there are chances of hair regrowth. 1.Make a mixture my mixing 200gms of amla powder and 100gms of bhringraj powder , take 1 tsp of it twice daily with water empty stomach. 2.Drink plenty of water daily. 3.Take giloy tablets, 1 tablet thrice a day with water empty stomach. It will help improve your immunity. 4.Use ayurvedic shampoos tgat are chemical free. 5.Apply aloepecia cream of himalaya on your scalp .
2 people found this helpful

Health Quizzes

Chemotherapy Myths and Facts

Diet Clinic 89% (1388 ratings)
B.Sc.(Hons), P.G.Dietetics
Dietitian/Nutritionist, Gurgaon
A vegetarian diet helps cope with the effects of chemotherapy. True or false?
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