Lithotripsy :: Chemotherapy :: Radiotherapy
Hormone Therapy :: Brachytherapy :: Surgery TURP
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy concerns the use of cytotoxic drugs to treat cancers by either killing the cancer cells or slowing their growth. Chemotherapy drugs travel round the body and attack rapidly growing cells, which may include healthy cells in the body as well as cancer cells. Breaks between bouts of chemotherapy allow the body’s normal cells to recover reducing side effects.
Usually chemotherapy is given intravenously - through a vein. Other methods of administering chemotherapy may take the form of intra-muscular injections, tablets or creams depending on a number of factors including the type of cancer, other medical problems and other medications that are being taken.
Some cancers can be treated or cured by chemotherapy alone, while some treatments may combine chemotherapy with other procedures such as surgery or radiotherapy - this is known as adjuvant therapy. Chemotherapy can be used before the main treatment to help make the tumour smaller (neoadjuvant chemotherapy), or after treatment to kill residual cancer cells that may cause problems later in treatment (adjuvant chemotherapy which is immediate or salvage chemotherapy which is given for disease recurrence).
In some instances chemotherapy may not be able to control the cancer but may be used to relieve symptoms such as pain and help you lead as normal a life as is possible (palliative chemotherapy).
There are many different combinations of chemotherapy used to treat various cancers, and these may have different effects on different people.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
While chemotherapy is useful for the killing of cancer cells in the body, as with most other treatments patients may experience side effects from the chemotherapy.
These side effects vary from treatment to treatment and from person to person but fortunately these problems may disappear with time or be managed to reduce the impact that they may cause.
The most common side effects are nausea and vomiting, fatigue (tiredness), alopecia (hair loss), muscular, nerve and blood effects as well as bowel (constipation or diarrhoea) and oral problems.
These side effects do not occur with all chemotherapy treatments or for all people receiving the same treatment. Full discussion with the medical oncologist before treatment starts will help to clarify what may be expected.