Chemotherapy is a widely used treatment for cancer. Normally, your cells grow and die in a controlled way. Cancer cells keep growing without control. More and more cells are produced, and they start to occupy an increasing amount of space until they occupy the space previously inhabited by normal cells.
Chemotherapy is a drug therapy for cancer. The chemotherapy drugs interfere with a cancer cell’s ability to divide and reproduce. It works by killing the cancer cells, preventing their progress, stopping them from spreading, or slowing their growth. A single drug or a combination of drugs is used. The effectiveness also depends to some extent on the stage of the cancer being treated. Depending on the individual and the stage of the cancer, chemotherapy can eliminate cancer cells or bring about long-term remission of symptoms. The drugs used can be delivered either directly into the bloodstream to attack cancer cells throughout the body or they can be targeted to specific cancer sites. In chemotherapy, cells are constantly replaced through a process of dividing and growing as part of the body’s natural process.
Chemotherapy is an invasive treatment that can have severe adverse effects. This is because the drugs often target not only cancerous cells but also healthy cells. But chemotherapy can in some cases achieve a complete cure, making the side effects bearable for many patients.
For best results, the patient will need regular chemotherapy over a period that will be specified by the oncologist (cancer specialist). A special plan will be drawn up for the patient specific for the treatment including sessions and its tenure. A course of treatment can range from a single dose on one day to a few weeks, depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Patients who need more than one course of treatment will have a rest period to allow their body to recover. Treatment could occur on one day, followed by a week’s rest, then another one-day treatment followed by a three-week rest period, and so on. This may be repeated many times. Depending on the type of cancer, the patient may take chemotherapy drugs orally in the form of tablets or liquid suspensions, or intravenously, injected into the vein with a needle or delivered through an intravenous infusion. The drugs can also be given as an injection (into a muscle in the arm or thigh), intrathecally, (injected into the space between layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord) or as an intraperitoneal (IP) injection (delivered directly into the part of the body where the intestines, stomach, and liver are located).
Although chemotherapy is a promising treatment for cancer, its effectiveness depends on individual factors including the location, type, and stage of the cancer, the patient’s age, overall health, and existing medical conditions. Chemotherapy alone can, in some cases, achieve complete remission, where the patient is cured and the cancer does not return. Sometimes, chemotherapy is combined with other treatments, such as radiation therapy or surgery, for more effective results. If a cancer is in the advanced stages, chemotherapy may slow disease progression and reduce symptoms, even when a cure is unlikely.