Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells, control their growth or relieve pain symptoms. It can be used alone to destroy some cancers, used in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation to produce a greater likelihood of cure, and used in different combinations to treat disease that has spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy may involve one drug or a combination of two or more drugs, depending on the type of cancer involved.
Just the word "chemotherapy" causes a lot of fear because patients are often frightened about potential side effects. However, not all people experience severe side effects, and with most cancer chemo treatment today, side effects can be managed quite effectively. With all the new drugs that have been developed for managing side effects of treatments, treatment is far superior to what it was even ten years ago.
How is cancer chemo treatment administered?
Chemotherapy can be administered in three ways:
- Oral cancer chemo treatment drugs are given by mouth. They are given as a pill or in liquid form.
- Injections (shots) are given under the skin into the muscle or directly into a cancer tumor.
- Intravenous (IV) therapy is given through a small needle inserted into a vein. This needle is attached with tubing to a plastic bag that holds the cancer chemo drugs.
For some patients who are prescribed a series of cancer chemo intravenous treatments, another type of plastic tubing, called a catheter, is inserted into a large vein and left in place during the entire course of therapy. It is removed when treatments are completed. Other patients have a metal or plastic disc implanted just under the skin as an outpatient procedure. This disc, known as a port, provides easy access to a vein so that patients don’t have to be stuck with a needle multiple times. Other patients may wear a small pump outside the body to receive continuous chemotherapy. We have learned that sometimes the way a drug is delivered can impact its effectiveness, so there are many cancer chemo treatment options used by oncologists today.
Another very effective type of chemotherapy is called Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC). HIPEC is an advanced procedure where heated chemotherapy is administered directly to the cancer site(s) during surgery. Read more about HIPEC or go to www.HIPECtreatment.com.
For more information on cancer chemo treatment and what options may be right for you, talk with your doctor. If you need a referral to a cancer specialist, contact the DeKalb Medical physician referral line at 404.501.WELL (9355) or call 404.501.EASY for more information.