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A Beginner’s Guide to Chemotherapy



Chemotherapy is a treatment that is used to kill cancerous cells, but while this is the main aim of the treatment, it is certainly not a simple and straightforward process. The medications that are used to destroy cancerous cells within the body are developed to react with the specific chemical makeup of the cells, but there are other cells within the human body that are destroyed in the process, and this means that individuals can become very sick after undergoing treatment.

It is important to remember that the effectiveness of this type of treatment, as well as the manner in which a patient will react to the treatment, depends on their individual circumstances, and this includes; the age of the patient, the type of cancer that is being treated, the drugs that are being used, the overall condition of the patient and the manner in which the body reacts to the drugs.

Replicating Cells

In order to understand the finer points of chemotherapy, it is important for people to understand how cells replicate. Healthy cells replicate according to a set of instructions within their DNA or RNA, but there are times when these cells begin dividing at an incredible rate due to a malfunction. Chemotherapy aims to kill the cells by eliminating the RNA or DNA within these cells.

Treatments in Cycles

Most people are aware of the fact that chemotherapy is difficult for patients and can make them very ill; this is because of the healthy cells that are being destroyed along with the cancerous cells. Due to the impact that the treatment has on a patient’s body, chemotherapy is usually administered in cycles so that the body has some time to recover between treatments. It is usually up to the doctor (referred to as an oncologist) to determine how effective the treatment is, and whether the patient is able to handle the types of drugs that are being administered. If the treatment isn’t working, other options have to be considered; in some cases, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation is used to treat the illness.

Changing Treatment Courses

Once a drug has been approved by the FDA, many people assume that it will then be put to use fighting cancerous cells, and while this might be the case, it is important to remember that the time tables according to which the medication is administered will have a big impact on the effectiveness of the drugs, and this is also something that is explored after the trials have been successfully completed. In some instances, oncologists have made the decision to alter these time tables when their patients are not finding success with the current treatment, and this has worked in the past.

Administering Chemotherapy

In order to treat a patient with chemotherapy, oncologists use a variety of techniques to administer the drug, including oral medications, injections, IVs, or even directly into an artery.

Is Treatment Working?

It is generally up to the oncologist to determine whether the treatment is working, and they will use a variety of tests to make up their minds, including Pet scans, MRIs, and CT scans.