What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to treat cancer. If it is given after surgery it is called adjuvant chemotherapy or before surgery, neoadjuvant. It is given to reduce the risk of the cancer returning. There are many different drugs used today. Some drugs work better in combination than alone, so your doctor may give you more than one to take. Some drugs are given by mouth and some IM or IV. Chemotherapy is usually offered in some form to almost all ladies with breast cancer. Chemotherapy usually starts within 4-6 weeks after surgery and is commonly given on a 21 or 28 day cycle. The length will vary, but typically lasts form 4 to 6 months. Some common side effects are nausea and vomiting (controlled with meds), hair loss (grows back after Rx concludes), early menopause (maybe permanent), and fatigue (helped with a good diet and exercise).Chemotherapy is the reason breast cancer 5 year survival has made such positive strides in recent years.
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals or drugs to damage or kill cancer cells or cause the cancer cells to activate an internal process that causes cell death (apoptosis). Chemotherapy has the advantage over surgery and radiation therapy of circulating throughout the body to wherever cancer cells may be. This can also be a disadvantage if there is not adequate blood supply to get the drugs to the cancer cells. Since we know that high-grade tumors invade microscopically into the brain beyond the surgical margin in virtually every case, we believe that effective chemotherapy must be a part of any strategy that seeks to cure this disease. We therefore offer chemotherapy to all patients whom we believe can benefit from it.
Chemotherapy is the use of special drugs designed to kill tumor cells. These drugs can target tumors because cells that are actively dividing absorb them. Some normal cells can also be affected, such as those that produce hair, blood, and skin. Your doctor can discuss these potential side effects with you in detail. As with radiation therapy, there are many different kinds of chemotherapy, and several different ways the drugs are delivered. Researchers work diligently to bring us new drugs and hope for a cure. New treatments are tested on patients in clinical trials at many major medical centers. Check the Support section of this web site for many resources regarding chemotherapy and research clinical trials. If your treatments have you sidelined from support group meetings, be sure to use the Message Board here to find friends with tips and experience dealing with chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy; this means it affects the whole body by going through the bloodstream. The purpose of chemotherapy and other systemic treatments is to get rid of any cancer cells that may have spread from where the cancer started to another part of the body. Chemotherapy is effective against cancer cells because the drugs love to interfere with rapidly dividing cells. The side effects of chemotherapy come about because cancer cells aren’t the only rapidly dividing cells in your body. The cells in your blood, mouth, intestinal tract, nose, nails, vagina, and hair are also undergoing constant, rapid division. This means that the chemotherapy is going to affect them, too. Still, chemotherapy is much easier to tolerate today than even a few years ago. And for many people it’s an important “insurance policy” against cancer or pre-malignancy recurrence. It’s also important to remember that organs in which the cells do not divide rapidly, such as the liver and kidneys, are