The Big “C”: The 101 on Chemotherapy
Cancer is a disease that I was not very familiar with not until a friend’s family member was diagnosed with this deadly illness. Generally, I don’t like hospitals that much but when you need to show support to a dear friend or relative, you have to suck it up and become pillar of strength for them. During frequent hospital visits, I learned things about cancer that I never knew about before, especially when it comes to treatments. I had always assumed that chemotherapy was only through the use of radiation. Turns out, I was wrong.
Let’s Get Technical
According to wikipedia, chemotherapy (chemo in its abbreviated form) is “the treatment of cancer with one or more cytotoxic anti-neoplastic drugs (“chemotherapeutic agents”) as part of a standardized regimen”. If the medical/technical terms made your head ache, there is a simpler way of defining chemotherapy. To put it simply, it is the use of medication or chemicals in treating disease. More specifically, the term in the typical sense refers to cancer cell destruction. Chemotherapy, however, may be used in tandem with antibiotics or even other medications in order to treat not only illness but also infection.
How Chemo Works
Cell renewal is a constant cycle of the body. Whenever cells get damaged or when they die, the body produces new ones in order to replace them. This cycle of death and renewal happens in an orderly way that is balanced. However, when cancer cells come into the picture, this is where the cycle spins out of control. Cancer cell reproduction is not orderly. Cancer cells divide and grow at a rapid rate, gradually occupying more space until they eventually take over the space where useful cells are, pushing them out. Chemotherapy deliberately interferes with this speedy reproduction, impairing mitosis and preventing cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. It can also trigger the suicide of cancer cells, which is known through its medical term, apoptosis.
The ultimate goal of chemotherapy is total remission or completely curing the patient of cancer. In some cases, patients are lucky when chemo alone is enough to rid their bodies of the cancer completely. In other cases, chemotherapy can be used in tandem with other therapies, like radiotherapy or surgery to name a few, which when combined yield more effective results. Chemo helps delay and even prevent the recurrence of cancer especially after surgery when a tumor is removed. However, in advanced stages of cancer where cure is unlikely, chemotherapy is used to relieve symptoms and at the same time help in slowing down cancer and keeping it from advancing at a rapid speed.
How Chemo is Administered
Chemotherapy can be administered in two ways and how it is administered depends on the type of cancer an individual has. Oral chemotherapy is done through swallowing of tablets–this is if the patient’s health will allow him or her to just take these at home. However, he or she will still be required to go to the hospital regularly so that the patient’s health as well as response to the treatment can be monitored. It is very important that tablets should be taken at the exact dosage and times specified. Failure to do so means that the patient should contact the medical team immediately for the proper course of action.
Another way that chemotherapy can be administered is through intravenous means like an injection straight through the vein or perhaps through a drip or what is known as intravenous infusion. Administering intravenous medication should be done with much care as hospital acquired infections are possible. The use of iv access ports can help in the prevention of bloodstream infections, which cancer patients may be vulnerable to especially since their immune system is compromised by chemotherapy treatments.
About the Author
Based in San Diego California, Tiffany Matthews is a professional writer with over 6 years of writing experience. In her free time, she likes to travel, read books, and watch movies. You can find her on Twitter as @TiffyCat87.
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