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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

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MBBS, MS- General Surgery
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Klatskin Tumour - Understanding It In Detail!

Dr. Debnarayan Dutta 90% (10 ratings)
MD, MBBS
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Klatskin Tumour - Understanding It In Detail!
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Popular Questions & Answers

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 89% (1511 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 .
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Health Quizzes

Chemotherapy Myths and Facts

Diet Clinic 92% (1364 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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