What is Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs that can destroy cancer cells. These drugs often are called "anticancer" drugs.
The word cancer refers to changes in the body's cells that cause them to grow out of control. These cells can grow very fast and spread, eventually crowding out normal cells and damaging entire systems of the body.
Chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy can be administered through a vein, injected into a body cavity, or delivered orally in the form of a pill, depending on which drug is used.
- Chemotherapy works by destroying cancer cells; however, it cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and some healthy cells.
- Thus, chemotherapy eliminates not only the fast-growing cancer cells but also other fast-growing cells in your body, including, hair and blood cells.
- Some cancer cells grow slowly while others grow rapidly.
- Therefore, different types of chemotherapy drugs target the growth patterns of specific types of cancer cells.
- Each drug has a different way of working and is effective at a specific time in the life cycle of the cell it targets.
- Your doctor will determine the chemotherapy drug that is right for you.
Normally, cells live, grow and die in a predictable way. Cancer occurs when certain cells in the body keep dividing and forming more cells without the ability to stop this process. Chemotherapy protocols involve destroying cancer cells by keeping the cells from further multiplying. Unfortunately, in the process of undergoing chemotherapy protocols, healthy cells can also be affected, especially those that naturally should divide quickly.
Chemotherapy protocols strive to maximize the elimination of cancer cells while minimizing the negative effects that these protocols have on healthy cells. Much progress in developing successful chemotherapy protocols has been made, including the identification of many different types of cancer and the corresponding development of effective chemotherapy protocol solutions.
Some common side effects of chemotherapy are:
Low white blood cell count (Neutropenia)
Low red blood cell count (Anemia)
Low platelet count (Thrombocytopenia)
Blood clotting problems
Mouth, gum and throat problems
Diarrhea and constipation
Nerve and muscle effects
Effects on skin and nails
Kidney and bladder effects
Effects on sexual organs and sexuality
Some side effects may be temporary and uncomfortable. Some can cause dose reductions and treatment delays or even be life-threatening.
Fortunately, significant progress has been made in the development of "proactive" therapies that help you manage the side effects of chemotherapy—ideally, before they interrupt your treatment schedule.
Neutropenia is the scientific name for a low infection-fighting white blood cell count. A low white blood cell count may leave your body vulnerable to infection and too weak to receive chemotherapy at the full dose on schedule.
Anemia is the scientific name for a low red blood cell count. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s muscles and organs. Oxygen is critical to the health of your tissues and organs.
Thrombocytopenia is the scientific name for a low platelet count. A low platelet count may cause you to experience bruising or excessive bleeding.
Types of Chemotherapy
- Alkylating agents
Alkylating agents are most active in the resting phase of the cell. These types of drugs are cell-cycle non-specific.
- Plant alkaloids
Plant alkaloids are chemotherapy treatments derived made from certain types of plants
The plant alkaloids are cell-cycle specific. This means they attack the cells during various phases of division.
- Antitumor antibiotics
Antitumor antibiotics are chemo treatments made from natural products produced by species of the soil fungus Streptomyces. These drugs act during multiple phases of the cell cycle and are considered cell-cycle specific.
Antimetabolites are types of chemotherapy treatments that are very similar to normal substances within the cell. When the cells incorporate these substances into the cellular metabolism, they are unable to divide. Antimetabolites are cell-cycle specific. They attack cells at very specific phases in the cycle.
- Topoisomerase inhibitors
Toposiomerase inhibitors are types of chemotherapy drugs that interfere with the action of topoisomerase enzymes (topoisomerase I and II). During the process of chemo treatments, topoisomerase enzymes control the manipulation of the structure of DNA necessary for replication.