Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses medicines to destroy fast-growing cells in the body. Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer, as cancer cells grow and multiply much more quickly than most of the other body cells. There are a many drugs that are used in this method of cancer treatment. It might be used to destroy the cancerous cells, the various indications of which are described below. One important, most often, indication of chemotherapy is to kill cancer cells in blood which remain after surgery. This treatment may also be used (depending on the case) to even in order to shrink a cancerous growth before surgery or radiation therapy. The treatment is very effective in decreasing the number of cancer cells in the body and also helps to treat the symptoms of cancer. It is delivered with an IV cannula inserted in a large vein, usually in the arm or hand. It is important to note that IV chemo is the most common method of chemotherapy delivery. In some chemotherapy drugs, route of administration may be changed to a central line which will be advised by your oncologist.
Intravenous chemotherapy medicines start to work faster than any other forms of chemo, such as oral and topical methods, because they at once enter the cells present in the bloodstream. It is delivered through an IV route in the vein after it is mixed with IV fluid in a bottle. Its dose may be administered for a few minutes or up to a few hours/days and is customized for each patient according to his cancer type. The dose is different for each patient and is calculated according to weight and height of the patient, keeping in mind the age of the patient
The treatment is typically performed in cycles/sessions lasting from one to six cycles, in most cases. Patients may get their chemotherapy cycles done in day-care in hospital, if it has to last for only few hours. But, few patients may require continuous infusions of the drug, which may be given over a few days or for even weeks at a time
A relatively new device available for delivering IV chemotherapy is a chemotherapy port. The port is surgically placed into a major vein and can remain in the body for extended periods of time. Whenever the chemotherapy is administered through port, it ensures safe and uniform delivery of the drug in the body. Chemo-ports may be beneficial for patients who need frequent dosages of drugs likely to cause swelling in arm or for patients whose peripheral veins are less prominent and fragile.
The side effects of chemotherapy vary for different patients. They depends on the following factors
- Patient’s body habit
- Patient’s general condition at the time of presentation
- Type of chemotherapy given
- Past history of cancer treatment
- Any other related medical conditions like BP problem, diabetes(if any)
Uses of chemotherapy
- To shrink a tumor before surgery, in an effort to downstage the disease and aim for complete cure.
- After surgery or remission, to remove any remaining cancer cells and delay or prevent a recurrence, thus curing the cancer completely.
- To slow disease progression and reduce symptoms in the later stages, even if a cure is unlikely.