Chemotherapy: What Is It and How Does It Work?

More about Chemotherapy Procedure

How is chemotherapy used to treat cancer? Chemotherapy is the use of any drug to treat any disease. However to many people, the word chemotherapy suggests substance abuse for cancer treatment. It’s often reduced to “chemo.”.

Surgery and radiation therapy eliminate, kill, or damage cancer cells in a certain area, but chemo can work throughout the whole body. This implies chemo can eliminate cancer cells that have actually spread (metastasized) to parts of the body far from the initial (main) tumor.

Where Will I Have Treatment?

Many people have chemotherapy on an outpatient basis during day visits to a medical facility or center. Sometimes an over night hospital stay might be needed. Some individuals can have chemotherapy at home if they use a portable pump or have oral chemotherapy.

How Long Does Treatment Last?

How frequently and how long you have chemotherapy depends upon the kind of cancer you have and the drugs that are used. You may have treatment daily, weekly or regular monthly for a number of months to a year.

Chemotherapy is commonly given up courses (cycles), with rest periods between. This enables regular cells to recuperate and your body to restore its strength. If your body needs more time to recuperate, i.e. for the blood count to return to regular, your next cycle might be postponed.

Your doctor will discuss your treatment strategy with you. Sometimes people have chemotherapy over 6-12 months, but it’s possible to have it for a shorter or longer period.

Some individuals who have chemotherapy to manage the cancer or to relieve symptoms (palliative treatment) might have routine treatment for many months or years.

How Much Does Treatment Cost?

Chemotherapy drugs are costly, however the majority of people just pay a fraction of the cost as lots of drugs are greatly subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). However, there are some drugs that are not covered by the PBS.

Your nurse, expert or clinic will tell you what you will have to pay. You will generally have to cover the cost of medications taken at home to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy (such as anti-nausea drugs).

Can Chemotherapy Be Offered During Pregnancy?

Being identified with cancer during pregnancy is uncommon– about one in 1000 women are affected.

It is possible for some pregnant women to have chemotherapy. Your medical team will go over all the available treatment options with you. Their suggestions will be based upon the kind of cancer you have, its stage, the other treatment options, and how to avoid damaging your establishing baby. Often chemotherapy or other treatment can be delayed till after the baby’s birth.

The majority of pregnant women with cancer feel nervous about the possible impact of treatment on their coming child. Being well-informed about possible treatments and side effects can make it much easier to make decisions and handle what happens.

If you have chemotherapy during pregnancy, your doctor will probably encourage you to stop having it at least 3– 4 weeks prior to your delivery date. This is due to the fact that chemotherapy increases your risk of bleeding or getting an infection during the birth. Stopping chemotherapy allows your body time to recuperate from the side effects.

Scientists are presently doing long-lasting research studies on women and children to explore this problem even more. It is known that providing chemotherapy in the first trimester (12 weeks) increases the risk of abnormality. However, some studies on children who were exposed to chemotherapy in the womb during the 2nd and third trimesters show that chemotherapy did not impact their advancement.

Various chemotherapy drugs may impact a developing baby in various ways. For instance, chemotherapy may cause premature delivery. Pre-term infants frequently have other health problems, such as respiratory problems and delayed development.

Your doctor can talk in information about your specific situation and what is best for your health and your unborn baby.


Last Update - October 20, 2017


The Author

Reyus Mammadli

As a healthy lifestyle advisor I try to guide individuals in becoming more aware of living well and healthy through a series of proactive and preventive measures, disease prevention steps, recovery after illness or medical procedures. Education: Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.

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