What Is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a branch of medical oncology which aims at killing or destroying the cancer cells and hence causes an abolition of the cancer mass. However its aim does not lie in the treatment of cancer cases only; can also be used as treatment modality in many other medical conditions as well. It is the administration of drugs which work anti to the cells of cancer and bring about a planned death of the tumor mass. A variety of drugs can be used in various doses and combinations as per the oncologist and the chemotherapist in order to eradicate or suppress the cancer symptoms. A chemotherapy dose and frequency is a joint decision of both the oncologist and the chemotherapist as per the sage and nature of the disease or the cancer the patient is suffering from.
Medical Conditions Requiring Chemotherapy:
- Though not all cases of cancers require chemotherapy, low grade cancers, or cancers that have been diagnosed in the early stages where the mass is still in its benign stage such as breast cancer, throat cancer, tongue cancer, colorectal cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, can be considered as ideal for chemotherapy treatment
- Advanced cases of cancer such as leukemia, Hodgin’s lymphoma
- Almost all types of skin cancers
- Auto immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythmatosus also can be treated with chemotherapy sessions
Types Of Chemotherapy:
- Curative chemotherapy: In this type of chemotherapy, drugs administered aim at killing the cancer cells and bring about a disintegration of the mass totally. They completely eradicate the tumor mass with the various actions the drugs have to kill the cells.
- Palliative chemotherapy: This is the type of therapy used in severe or aggressive cases of cancer, where it is just possible to halt the growth of the mass and suppress the cancer symptoms. This method does not aim at killing the cancer mass because this would need large and heavy doses which would lead to major side effects than the actual aim of the drugs. Thus small and frequent doses of chemo drugs are given only to down regulate the rate at which the cancer cells divide and grow in size.
- Adjunctive chemotherapy: These are chemo sessions which are used along with radiation therapy or surgical management of cancer. A chemotherapy treatment can be planned prior to a surgery so as to reduce the mass in size and then proceed for removal from the body. This can hold true for cases such as breast cancer mass, colon cancer, cancer of the rectal wall and canal. In such cases if a surgery is planned to remove the mass, a major portion of the healthy tissues also needs to be removed in order to prevent recurrence of the cancer. Thus it is a better and a safe option to reduce the size of the mass first and then plan for the surgical removal.
Treatment Procedures for Chemotherapy:
· Types of drugs used in chemotherapy: There are five major categories of drugs that are in use as chemotherapeutic drugs. These are as follows:
- Alkylating agents: These are agents which bind with the DNA and RNA in the nucleus of the cancer cells and bring about death of the cell due to their lethal attachment. These are composed of nitrogen and mustard gas derivatives.
- Anti metabolites: Certain enzymes are known for the synthesis of RNA and DNA present in the cancer cells which eventually help in the formation of the genetic composition of the cell. The anti metabolites prevent the formation of such enzymes and reduce the activity of the ones that have been formed. As a result cancer cells possess a weak DNA or RNA structure and fail to undergo division.
- Anti microtubule agents: Micro tubules are important cell membrane structures which are required during cell division. An anti microtubule agent would prevent the formation of microtubules and thus bring about disintegration of the cancer cells. These agents are mostly plant derived extracts.
- Topoisomerase inhibitors: The enzymes topoisomerase I and II are required for the replication of DNA and hence for cell multiplication. A topoisomerase inhibitor would suppress the activity of the enzyme and prevent the cycle of multiplication of the cancer masses.
- Cytotoxic antibiotics: These include anthracyclines and bleomycins which interrupt the synthesis of the nucleic acids in the cancer cell and prevent cell division.
- Dosage of drugs used in chemotherapy: The dose of the drug is decided by calculating the body mass index of the patient which is also known as BSA. It also takes account of the individual’s height and weight. The number of times the dose will have to be given, the quantity and the method of delivery is decided by the chemotherapist as per the type and stage of cancer.
- Methods of delivery of drugs: An intravenous or an oral method is the most commonly used portal for the administration of chemotherapeutic drugs. An intravenous method aims at directly pouring the drug into the blood stream. Various vehicles can be an option for this method such as winged infusion device, peripheral and central line catheters. For cancers of the skin, topical applications of the drugs can also be recommended. For cancers of the brain, intra thecal administration is also recommended.
Complications And Risk Factors Associated With Chemotherapy:
- Sore throat, pain while swallowing
- Salivary gland cells and hair follicles become sensitive to chemo drugs; may result in reduced saliva production and hair loss
- Fatigue, nausea, vomiting, general discomfort and weakness
- Lethal effect of germ cells leading to impotence, infertility
- Gastrointestinal distress, altered digestion, diarrhea or constipation
- General suppression of the immune levels, cropping up of some other medical condition of tumor of low grade
Am I Good Candidate For Chemotherapy?
- This is the choice which mostly an oncologist is responsible for.
- However if you are suffering from a low grade cancer, chemotherapy is the best choice for the treatment.
- Cancers such as leukemia or systemic lupus erythmatosus which are quite aggressive can be manipulated with the help of palliative chemotherapy sessions.
A complete chemotherapy session takes about 3 to 6 months or even a full year to complete. After each cycle, a period of 30 days is required to fully recover and gain back the lost immune levels for any individual.
Success Rate of Chemotherapy:
The success rate for chemotherapy is calculated by the five year survival rate of the patient suffering from cancer receiving the chemotherapy sessions. For most of the cancers, a five year survival rate is increased by 5 percent after receiving chemotherapy sessions. An adjunctive or a palliative type of chemotherapy can increase the life span by about 3-4 years; however tends to cause more side effects than the actual aim.
Benefits of Chemotherapy:
Multiple sessions of chemotherapy in succession either curative, palliative or an adjunctive type will benefit in the following manner:
- Halt the progress of multiplication of the cancer cells
- Cause death or disintegration of the cancer cells due to its lethal nature
- Prevent conversion of the benign mass into metastatic one and further damage to the body
In a country like India, the weekly dose for a single or maybe dose taken twice weekly is 40 percent less as compared to even a single dose taken in the United States, Australia, China.
Why choose India?
Team MedcureIndia is an ardent promoter of the hospitals and institutes providing chemotherapy sessions here at affordable rates. Clubbed to the sessions are also a thorough diagnostic approach, highly qualified oncologist and chemotherapists, ensuring best possible treatment outcomes.