As a part of the natural process, the body cells grow, divide, and die. But when cancer arises, cells grow uncontrollably. These abnormal cells begin to occupy the whole body. To stop this process, certain drugs or chemicals are used; this process is referred to as chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is the use of medicines or any chemicals to kill the rapidly dividing cancer cells. It is recommended to cure, control, or ease the symptoms caused by cancer. Chemotherapy is given either orally (tablets or capsules) or in the form of injection. Mostly, chemotherapy is given after the cancer surgery to prevent the recurrence, or before the surgery to shrink the tumours.
Any patient with cancer can undergo chemotherapy. However, based on the type of cancer and overall health condition, the doctor will decide whether you are eligible for chemotherapy or not.
PREPARATION BEFORE PROCEDURE
The doctor will review the medical and medication history of the patient. Based on the type of medicine and the route of administration, the patient is advised to take the following instructions:
- A complete blood test is done to assess the health of the liver, kidney, lungs, and heart of the patient to determine whether the patient is fit for chemotherapy.
- Tell the doctor about the use of current medicines before initiating chemotherapy.
- If chemotherapy is given in the form of an injection, then surgical devices, such as a catheter, port or pump are implanted in the vein near the chest to deliver the medicine.
- A dental check-up is done to determine any signs of teeth infections. If there is an infection, it is treated prior to chemotherapy.
- The patient should ask the doctor regarding all the side effects and make the necessary arrangements.
- Chemotherapy is mostly given as an outpatient clinic. So, the person should make necessary arrangements to plan their work accordingly.
- On the day of chemotherapy, you will be advised to have a small and light meal.
Type of chemotherapy drug
There are several types of chemotherapy drugs. But, the following are the main type of chemotherapy used in the treatment of various types of cancer:
- Alkylating agents: Busulfan, cyclophosphamide, temozolamide are some examples of alkylating agents. This class of medicines are widely recommended in the treatment of leukaemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, sarcoma, and cancer of lungs, breast, and ovaries.
- Anti-metabolites: This class includes 5-flurouracil, 6-mercaptopurine, capecitabine, and gemcitabine. These chemo drugs are recommended in the treatment of leukaemia, cancer or breast, ovaries, and intestinal tract.
- Topoisomerase inhibitors: Etoposide, irinotecan, and topotecan are some examples of topoisomerase inhibitors. Leukaemia, cancer of the lungs, ovaries, and gastrointestinal tract can be managed with this class of drugs.
- Mitotic inhibitors: This class includes certain drugs like docetaxel, eribulin, vinblastine, paclitaxel, and ixabepilone. These chemo drugs are recommended in the management of myeloma, lymphoma, leukaemias, and cancer of the breast or lungs.
- Anti-tumour antibodies: This class of drugs are recommended in almost all type of cancers. Dactinomycin, bleomycin, daunorubicin, and doxorubicin are some examples of anti-tumour antibodies.
In intravenous chemotherapy, a catheter is placed into a vein in the forearm of the patient to deliver the drug. Intravenous chemotherapy usually takes a few minutes, hours or several days (if the continuous infusion is given). In some cases, the hospital stay is recommended.
If chemotherapy is given orally in the form of tablets, capsules, or pills, then hospital stay and frequent visits are not required. Based on the patient’s age, overall health condition, type and stage of cancer, the doctor will recommend an appropriate chemotherapy drug.
It is a kind of drug therapy, but is different from chemotherapy. Targeted therapy, as the name suggests, targets and inhibits the molecules that help the cancer cells survive. As a result of this therapy, the cancer cells are unable to grow or spread. The advantage of targeted therapy is that it does not affect healthy cells. It is quite a recent development and is more expensive than chemotherapy.
If the chemotherapy is given in the form of IV injection, the port or catheter remains as such until all the sessions are done. After each session, the nurse will check the vitals, such as blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing, and body temperature. In addition to cancer cells, chemotherapy also affects healthy body tissues, so you are at higher risk of side effects. To manage these side effects, you will be advised to take certain medicines.
Follow the tips given below to manage the side effects while undergoing chemotherapy:
- Stay hydrated
- Have a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Maintain oral and personal hygiene
- Avoid foods that are rich in sugars
- Do not stay near a sick person
- Do not eat raw vegetables
- Stay away from pets
- Do not visit crowded places
- Take the prescribed medicines
- Stay active
- Quit smoking
FACTORS AFFECTING COST
The overall cost of chemotherapy depends on:
- The type of medicine used
- Route of administration
- Duration and number of cycles
- Other treatments