What is chemotherapy? How is this procedure carried out? Why do patients need it and how dangerous is it?
When Is Chemotherapy Important?
Chemotherapy is malignant diseases’ treatment with poisons and toxins, which produce a damaging effect on the cells of malignant tumors with a relatively lower negative impact on the body.
The toxin is called chemotherapeutic agent. Drug anticancer therapy (chemotherapy) can be preoperative, postoperative, preventive, and curative – relating to one or another disease manifestation.
A chemotherapist chooses the treatment based on different criteria and factors, including the morphological form of cancer, the spread of the disease, the patient’s age, comorbidities, and so on.
Given that the effect of the drug aims at the infinitely dividing cells, chemotherapy is cyclical and is repeated after a certain number of days – according to the cell cycle.
How Is Chemotherapy Done?
Typically, the procedure is a drop-by-drop introduction of drugs or pills intake.
It is well known that each medicament, beside a positive therapeutic effect, can cause undesirable toxic side effects. Strong side effects are usually a reason for treatment cessation, but not chemotherapy – anti-cancer treatment is always associated with toxic reactions.
They are expected and should not be a cause for treatment cessation. While some reactions are life-threatening, in some cases it is possible to reduce the dose of the drug in the next course. This does not mean that toxic reactions must inevitably occur.
Chemotherapy Side Effects
Cytotoxic agents kill the most active cells – not only those of cancer, but also the cells of the mucous membranes, blood, bone marrow, and gonads.
Most often due to chemotherapy a patient suffers hair loss, nausea, vomiting, damage to the gastrointestinal tract’s mucous membranes (stomatitis and diarrhea) and blood cells’ loss.
However, the hair grows thick, often wavy, and of another color, leaving no one disappointed. Eyebrows and eyelashes are fully recovered after 2 weeks after chemotherapy.
Nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy are not similar to motion sickness. A drug acts on the intestinal sensory receptors. In response to it, intestinal cells secrete serotonin – a hormonal agent, sometimes called a “happiness hormone”: its deficiency leads to depression and its excess – to euphoria.
Serotonin stimulates nerve endings, and the “anxiety” is transmitted to the brain. The final link activating the mechanism of vomiting is the vomiting center in the deep structures of the brain. Antiemetic drugs block the receptors sensitive to serotonin excreted by the body. Due to this, nervous excitement does not come to the vomiting center, and the patient does not experience the discomfort.