Chemotherapy is one of the most widely used therapeutic modalities in the treatment of cancer, which is done by using a wide variety of drugs.
The main objective of the Chemotherapy is to destroy the cells that make up the tumor in order to achieve the reduction of the disease. The drugs used in this type of treatment are called antineoplastic or chemotherapeutic drugs.
Normally, the process of dividing healthy cells is strictly regulated by many control mechanisms, which tell the cell when to divide or when to remain stable.
In general, chemotherapy acts in the phase of the division of the tumor cell preventing its multiplication, and destroying them. Over time, this results in a decrease or disappearance of the malignant tumor.
Purpose of the Chemotherapy
The purpose of chemotherapy may vary depending on the type of tumor, the stage in which the tumor is found, and the general condition of the patient:
In this case, the intention of chemotherapy is to cure the disease and can be used as a single treatment or it can be combined with others. A patient is considered cured when there is no evidence of tumor cells for a long time.
Chemotherapy is intended to control the symptoms produced by the tumor. Its primary objective is to improve the quality of life of the patient and, if possible, also increase their survival.
Each type of malignant tumor has a certain sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drugs and a certain resistance to others. However, it is frequent that the same drug can be used in the treatment of different tumors, varying the doses or associating it with other different drugs.
For each type of neoplasm, and depending on the stage of the disease, specific treatment schemes are used, usually combinations of cytotoxic drugs, which are usually identified by acronyms. Your oncologist will be the one who decides what type of drugs and what dose is necessary to administer depending on a series of factors such as:
- Your general condition
- Previous diseases (heart disease, vascular diseases, etc…)
- Type of tumor
- The phase of the disease.
- Location of the tumor.
Does Chemotherapy Work?
Generally, during the treatment and/or after the end of it, your oncologist will ask you to do a series of tests that will allow you to know how the tumor has responded to chemotherapy.
Only through them, it is possible to know if the tumor has diminished, disappeared or if on the contrary it is in a stable situation or has progressed.
The response of a tumor to a treatment is totally independent of the number and intensity of the side effects caused by it. The fact of not developing symptoms during chemotherapy does not mean that it is not acting on the tumor and vice versa.
Generally, the possibility of continuing with your daily activities is determined by the side effects that chemotherapy can cause (fatigue, discomfort, etc).
The side effects caused by chemotherapy depend on a number of factors such as:
- Type of chemotherapy and dose: each drug can cause side effects totally different from those caused by other medications. In addition, these effects are more or less intense, depending on the dose administered, the interval between cycles, etc.
- Previous illnesses: some chronic diseases can aggravate symptoms and side effects. Thus, for example, diabetes can increase neurological toxicity.
- Individual susceptibility: although certain side effects always appear when a specific drug is used, other effects or the intensity of the same varies from one person to another.
Although most patients can continue to perform their daily activities during treatment, it is difficult to know a priori what will happen in your case. It is convenient that you consider the possibility of decreasing the pace of work and rest during the days after the administration of the treatment.
Your doctor can inform you about the side effects of the treatment and advise on the recommendations to follow.