Chemotherapy or chemo is a technique mostly used to treat cancer. Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. Chemotherapy targets and kills these cancer cells by stopping or slowing the growth of these cells.
The cancer burden has shown an increasing trend in India over the last three decades. According to a report published in TOI, common cancers including oral, cervical and breast cancer, increased by nearly 324% between 2017 and 2018 as per National Health Profile 2019 data.
The following statistics on cancer cases in India were published in a 2019 report in India Today:
Here are ten truths about chemotherapy that can help you stay informed on your journey towards fighting cancer.
1. Chemotherapy Can Cure, Control or Ease the Symptoms
Depending on the cancer stage and other health factors, chemotherapy can either cure or control cancer. Curing cancer means stopping the disease from coming back. In some cases, chemotherapy is used to shrink tumours or stop cancer from growing and spreading. When cancer is in an advanced stage, the goal of chemo is to ease some of the symptoms. It can help the person feel better and live an improved quality of life.
2. Chemotherapy Has Various Methods
Chemotherapy can be administered in a myriad ways, depending on the type of cancer and other underlying conditions.
- Intravenous – A tube is inserted with a needle into a vein in your arm or a device in a vein in your chest.
- Oral – Certain chemotherapy drugs can be taken orally in a pill or capsule form.
- Injections – The drug can also be injected straight into the body with a needle.
- Topical creams – Chemotherapy drugs are also available in cream or gel form to be applied directly to the skin.
3. Chemotherapy Is a Cyclic Treatment
Chemotherapy is usually performed in intervals. The person may receive a dose of one or more drugs on one day, followed by a rest period. The objective of the rest period is to give healthy cells time to recover from drug side-effects. You may receive doses for certain days in a row, or every other day for several days. Each drug has its own schedule, which maximises its anti-cancer effects and minimises potential side-effects.
4. Strict Dosage Adherence
Since chemotherapy uses strong chemicals during treatment, the dosage of the drug(s) needs to be calculated very carefully by the doctor. Too little, and the drug administration will not treat cancer entirely – and too much can have severe side-effects. There are different ways in which your doctor can determine chemo doses, depending on the drugs. Various factors like your age, weight, blood cell count, etc. are also considered while determining drug dose.
5. Chemotherapy in Combination With Other Treatments
Chemotherapy sometimes cures cancer by itself, but mostly it is used in combination with other treatments like
- Radiation therapy
- Biological therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Hormone therapy
In the surgical process, the doctor removes the part of the body where cancerous cells are present. At the same time, in radiation therapy, invisible radioactive particles are used to kill the cancer cells. In biological therapy, living materials like bacteria and antibodies are introduced to kill the ailing cells.
6. Planning Before Chemotherapy
Before starting the treatment, your oncologist carefully plans every detail. From the kind of drug and its dose to the method of administration and the treatment schedule – everything is chalked out. The doctor may also suggest you undergo some blood tests to check and analyse any underlying health conditions. This is because pre-existing conditions can impact the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
7. Chemotherapy May Cause Adverse Effects
In the process of killing cancer cells, chemotherapy may target healthy cells in the body. As a result, cancer patients experience some side-effects, which your doctor can usually treat. Most side-effects go away once the treatment is over, while some may show up after months or years of treatment. Some might not experience any adverse effects, as the severity varies from person to person. The most common side-effects are:
- Hair loss
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low blood cell count resulting in anaemia
- Constipation or Diarrhea
- Fertility issues
Some people also experience mood changes and anxiety. Whatever the concern, it should be duly discussed with the doctor so that timely treatment can help ease these effects.
8. Chemotherapy Affects Different People in Different Ways
How a person feels during chemotherapy depends on the overall health, type of cancer, stage, kind of chemotherapy, and its dose. The severity of the disease can harm the mental health of cancer patients. They may lose hope or become disturbed by the implication of death by cancer. Family support and mental health counselling often help people cope well with the treatment.
9. Working During Chemotherapy
It is usually safe to keep doing your job during your chemotherapy period unless you don’t feel sick or fatigued. It is best not to push your limits, as proper rest is also a must during chemotherapy. If possible you can opt to work part-time or work from home on days you don’t feel too well. Whatever you choose, it’s essential to consult your doctor from time to time.
10. Communicate With Your Doctor
You may have many questions in your mind regarding your treatment. Talking to your doctor and clearing your mind of all doubts helps you prepare better for chemotherapy. Additionally, consulting your doctor is an urgent requirement to judge the effectiveness of the treatment. Before starting, you may wish to discuss the following with your doctor:
- Alternative options
- Possible side-effects
- Approximate cost of the treatment
- Effectiveness of the treatment
Also, during chemotherapy, the more you share with your doctor how you are feeling, the better your treatment experience will be.
Chemotherapy is a hard choice to make for anyone, and feeling apprehensive towards the treatment is natural. No matter what you’re feeling, openly sharing with your Cancer specialist doctor in gurgaon can help you deal with it in a better way. If cancer is taking a toll on your mental health, your doctor can suggest a counsellor who can help you de-stress. After all, your overall health is your doctor’s top priority.
For a consultation with our specialists, visit CK Birla Hospital today.