Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer using drugs to kill cancer cells. Many types of chemotherapy, or chemo treatments, are given intravenously, through a port in the vein, while other treatments may be administered orally with pills, inclucing some of the newer forms of chemotherapy that are targeted therapies.
The intent of the treatment is to cure cancer and also to treat the cancer, such as to shrink a tumor or control symptoms.
There are three ways in which chemotherapy is used to treat cancer: Adjuvent, Neo-Adjuvent and Primary Cure. Chemotherapy may also be used to treat cancer that is not curable.
Adjuvent Chemotherapy Treatment
Adjuvent treatment is chemotherapy given after the patient’s surgery to remove some or all of any remaining cancer in the body. This form of chemotherapy helps prevent the cancer from reoccurring. Adjuvent chemotherapy is often used for treating breast cancer.
Neo-Adjuvent Chemotherapy Treatment
This form of chemotherapy is delivered before surgery to shrink cancerous tumors. Surgery generally follows this treatment to remove any remaining cancer. Neo-Adjuvent treatment is often used to treat many types of cancers.
Primary Cure Chemotherapy Treatment
Primary Cure treatment is when chemotherapy is administered without surgery or radiation, as the cancer may be treated with just chemotherapy. Primary Cure chemo treatments are often used for Hodgkins Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and for some forms of Leukemia, such as acute Leukemia.
Non-Curative Chemotherapy Treatment
For cancer that is not considered curable chemotherapy may still be used for the purpose of controlling symptoms, easing any pain, or helping with fatigue.
Cancer that is metastatic means it has spread from where it started to other areas in the body. As the cancer cannot be removed by any other means, chemotherapy is used to treat all of the areas where cancer may be present. The chemotherapy goes into the blood stream to try to control those cancers, prevent them from getting larger or even helping to shrink the tumors. The use of use of some targeted forms of chemotherapy have proven to be effective with metastatic cancer, particularly with metastatic breast cancer. Drugs such as Kadcyla (T-DM1) provide medication to the tumor cells directly, without affecting healthy cells. Learn more about Kadcyla here.
Which Chemotherapy Treatment?
What type of chemotherapy a patient is administered is based on the results of national studies, guidelines and recommendations. For example, a specific type of cancer at a specific stage may have certain guidelines that recommend what type of chemotherapy treatment, the specific drugs, the dose, how often treatments should be administered and for how long. Oncologists will follow these guidelines to determine the best form of treatment for a patient with cancer. The bottom line is to provide the best outcome based on information that shows a particular chemotherapy is going to help.
Chemotherapy Side Effects
With chemotherapy treatment, the patient may experience various side effects, such as hair loss, skin rashes, nausea, fatigue and other symptoms. Side effects will vary by the type of chemo drug as well as from patient to patient. For any poswsible side effects, your oncologist will be able to prescribe many types of medicines to help ease any possible discomfort. Please visit chemotherapy side effects to learn more about some of the possible side effects from chemotherapy treatment, such as hair loss.
Rest assured that all of us involved in cancer treatment are here for you and working hard for your success, whether that’s a cure, or whether that’s maintaining or whether that’s improving symptoms, we are here to fight with you.
Using Chemotherapy Portacaths
Oncologist Stephen Lemon, MD talks about ports and how to use them during chemotherapy.
Learn how to use ports during chemotherapy.