Modern era has seen more and more number of cancer patients being diagnosed every year. It is mainly because of increasing awareness, better medical facilities and rising incidence. Latter is due to unhealthy lifestyle, smoking and pollutants. Most of the patients suffering from cancer require chemotherapy as part of their treatment which may be before surgery, after surgery, with radiotherapy or in some cases alone [viz. lymphoma and leukemia].
What is Chemotherapy?
- Chemotherapy means treatment of cancer by the use of chemical substances.
- Chemotherapy works by stopping the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly. Since, this killing is not specific to cancer cells some normal cells also get affected [e.g. hairs, mucosal lining of gut etc.] which results in side effects. However, these side effects are mostly short term and recovers with appropriate support.
- Type of chemotherapy depends on underlying disease and stage of cancer. For example, lymphoma has different type of chemotherapy when compared to patient who is suffering from cancer of breast/lung.
- Duration of chemotherapy depends on stage of cancer viz. higher is the stage, more are number of cycles of chemotherapy. It’s important to understand that each disease is different and each individual is different too, so side effects as well as results vary with in a population. What a cancer patient needs are proper counselling, expert medical advice and strong psychological support from society.
How is Chemotherapy used?
Sometimes, chemotherapy is used as the only cancer treatment. More often, you will get chemotherapy along with surgery, radiation therapy, or biological therapy. Chemotherapy can:
- Make a tumor smaller before surgery or radiation therapy. This is called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.
- Destroy cancer cells that may remain after surgery or radiation therapy. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy.
- Help radiation therapy and biological therapy work better.
- Destroy cancer cells that have come back (recurrent cancer) or spread to other parts of your body (metastatic cancer).