Diagnostics

Chemotherapy

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a widely used and essential cancer treatment. It can be utilized as a standalone treatment or in combination with other approaches such as radiation therapy, surgery, or additional drug therapies. The specific type of chemotherapy prescribed is determined based on factors such as the stage and location of the cancer, as well as the individual’s overall health. Chemotherapy can be administered through various methods, including oral medications, intravenous infusion, or injections.

Chemotherapy is highly effective in treating cancer, but it is essential to be aware of potential side effects that may arise as a result. The severity of these side effects can vary, ranging from mild and manageable to more serious complications.

Who administers chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy treatment is typically administered by doctors specialized in oncology, such as medical oncologists, oncology nurses, and palliative care specialists.

Chemotherapy treatments can be given in various settings:

  • Outpatient chemotherapy center
  •  Oncologist’s clinic
  •  Hospital
  •  Home: In specific situations where the patient receives oral chemotherapy medications.

Why electrocardiograms are done?

Chemotherapy is a treatment approach used to eliminate cancer cells in individuals diagnosed with cancer.

Oncologists utilize chemotherapy in various ways to treat cancer.

  • Curative treatment: Chemotherapy can be used as the primary or sole treatment to cure cancer.
  • Adjuvant therapy: After other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy may be administered to target any remaining cancer cells that may be hidden or undetectable. This is referred to as adjuvant therapy.
  • Neoadjuvant therapy: Chemotherapy may be used to shrink a tumour before other treatments, such as radiation therapy or surgery, are implemented. This is known as neoadjuvant therapy.
  • Palliative care: Chemotherapy can be employed to alleviate the signs and symptoms of cancer by targeting and reducing cancer cells. This approach is referred to as palliative chemotherapy.

How intravenous chemotherapy drugs are given?

Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy drugs are commonly administered through different methods:

  • Needle: A needle is inserted into a vein, typically in the arm, allowing the chemotherapy to be delivered directly into the bloodstream.
  • Catheter: A thin and flexible tube is attached to a vein, usually located in the chest. The catheter provides a more durable access point for repeated chemotherapy sessions, eliminating the need for frequent needle sticks in the arm.
  • Port: A small disc-shaped device is inserted under the skin, usually in the chest area. A catheter is connected to the port, enabling chemotherapy administration. Port placement typically involves a minor surgical procedure.
  • Pump: A device connected to a catheter or port controlling the flow and dosage of the chemotherapy drug. The pump ensures consistent and controlled delivery of the medication.
Catheters and ports are particularly beneficial for patients who require multiple rounds of chemotherapy. They minimize the need for frequent needle sticks and provide a more convenient and reliable access point for administering chemotherapy drugs. In addition to chemotherapy, catheters and ports can also be used to deliver other medications, including antibiotics or antiemetics to manage side effects such as nausea and vomiting. The specific method chosen for delivering IV chemotherapy depends on the patient’s individual needs, treatment plan, and the recommendations of the oncologist.

How is chemotherapy given?

Preparing for chemotherapy treatment

  • Certain tests and procedures will be conducted to ensure the body is prepared for chemotherapy. These may include blood tests to assess kidney and liver functions and heart tests to evaluate cardiac health. Treatment may be delayed if any issues are identified, or alternative chemotherapy drugs and dosages may be selected to ensure safety.
  • Before chemotherapy, the patient should visit a dentist to check for any signs of infection in the teeth. Treating existing infections can help reduce the risk of complications during chemotherapy, as some drugs can weaken the body’s ability to fight infections.
  • Before starting intravenous chemotherapy, a surgical procedure may be performed to insert a device, such as a catheter, port, or pump, into a large vein, typically in the chest if needed. This device allows chemotherapy drugs to be administered directly into the bloodstream.
  • To prepare for potential side effects, consult with a doctor to understand what side effects to expect during and after chemotherapy. Make appropriate arrangements, such as considering fertility preservation options if infertility is a concern or planning for head coverings in case of hair loss.

During chemotherapy treatment

Treatment sessions: Chemotherapy is typically administered in cycles, with specific intervals between sessions to allow the body to recover. The frequency and duration of treatment sessions depend on the type and stage of cancer and the prescribed chemotherapy regimen.

Chemotherapy administration: Chemotherapy drugs can be delivered through different methods, including intravenous infusion, injections, oral pills, or topical creams. The specific method will depend on the drugs used and the treatment plan determined by the healthcare team.

Monitoring and assessments: The healthcare team will closely monitor the progress of the patient throughout chemotherapy. This may involve regular blood tests to assess overall health, organ functions, and the effectiveness of the treatment. Imaging scans and other diagnostic tests may also be conducted to evaluate the progress of cancer.

Side effects management: Chemotherapy often comes with side effects that vary in severity depending on the drugs used and individual factors. Common side effects can include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, changes in appetite, mouth sores, and changes in blood cell counts. The healthcare team will provide guidance on managing and alleviating these side effects through medications, lifestyle adjustments, and supportive care strategies.

Supportive care: Alongside chemotherapy, supportive care measures are employed to help manage side effects and enhance overall well-being. This can include medications to prevent infections, anti-nausea drugs, pain management, nutritional support, counselling services, and integrative therapies such as acupuncture or meditation.

It is important to note that each individual’s experience with chemotherapy can differ, and the specific treatment plans may involve additional or unique aspects. Always consult the healthcare team for personalized information and guidance based on the situation and cancer diagnosis.

References

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