Chemotherapy is a common treatment method for cancer that involves the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. These drugs are typically designed to attack and kill rapidly dividing cells, which includes cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered in different ways, including orally (pills or capsules), through injections, or through intravenous (IV) infusion.
How Chemotherapy Works
Chemotherapy drugs work by disrupting the cell cycle and preventing cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. They may also induce cancer cell death by damaging the DNA or interfering with essential cellular processes. While chemotherapy primarily targets cancer cells, it can also affect healthy cells in the body that divide rapidly, leading to side effects.
Uses of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can be used for various purposes, including:
Curative intent: In some cases, chemotherapy may be used with the goal of curing cancer, especially when the disease is localized or hasn't spread extensively.
Adjuvant therapy: Chemotherapy can be given after primary treatments like surgery or radiation therapy to eliminate any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Neoadjuvant therapy: In certain cases, chemotherapy may be given before the main treatment, such as surgery or radiation therapy, to shrink tumors and make them more amenable to subsequent treatments.
Palliative care: Chemotherapy can be used to alleviate symptoms, slow down disease progression, and improve the quality of life in advanced or metastatic cancer cases.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can have side effects due to its effects on normal cells in the body. Common side effects include:
Nausea and vomiting
Increased susceptibility to infections
Decreased blood cell counts
Loss of appetite
Medical professionals take precautions to manage and minimize these side effects through various supportive measures.