We all hear of this cancer treatment, but what exactly does the process of chemotherapy entail?? Simply put, it is a way to kill cancer cells with drugs. Cancer cells grow and divide vary quickly, so treatment is a race against this spreading. Chemotherapy specifically targets the cells that do spread quickly. “Chemo” can work throughout the entire body, which is different from radiation or surgeries that can only target specific locations. The trouble is that chemo can also affect healthy cells too such as those of the hair, skin, bone marrow, and intestines. That is what causes the detrimental side effects of this treatment.
Although there may be side effects to this method, the goal of chemo is to either ease the symptoms, help control, or even cure cancer. It works to shrink the cancer-causing tumors, and to keep them from spreading, and to hopefully absolutely destroy the cancer cells. Many times, doctors combine chemo with another form of treatment. It can be used to shrink cells prior to radiation treatment (using radioactive particles to kill cells), after a doctor removes a cancerous tumor, or in addition to vaccinations and antibodies that work to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy has the ability to make other treatment forms more effective.
Chemotherapy varies from person to person. Factors to consider include the type of cancer, the way your body responds, how far along the caner has gotten, and what the ultimate goal of the treatment is (shrink, cure, ease pain). Sometimes chemo is administered in cycles that allow the body to recover between treatments. A person might do chemo for one week then take a three week break before returning for more. Treatment can be done via injection to a major muscle such as the thigh, hip, or stomach. It can come in oral form or even topical. Intravenous (IV) is also a method which goes directly to the vein. Intra-arterial (IA) is when it goes directly to the artery. Intraperitoneal (IP) is when it goes directly to peritoneal cavity which includes the liver, intestines, stomach, and ovaries.
Most people feel absolutely worn out from this process. There are even certain laws that can help a person with their place of employment because working during treatment can become just too daunting. Health insurance is incredibly important to have for all of this. Chemotherapy is a difficult but incredible process that saves lives. Patience is key and having a network of support because the body is fighting to heal itself, renew itself, and make those most what it can do to keep the body alive and well. As the saying goes, if at first it doesn’t succeed, then try, try, try again and beat cancer once and for all.