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Chemotherapy FAQs - Page 1

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of toxic agents for cancer cells (cytotoxic) to destroy them or prevent them from reproducing. Unlike surgery and radiotherapy, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that affects the entire body.   

How chemotherapy works ? 

The main characteristic of cancer cells is multiplying rapidly and chaotically. Chemotherapy affects the cells when they are in the process of dividing to reproduce. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs also exercise their destructive action on healthy cells that normally renew themselves quickly in the body: mainly, the cells in the bone marrow (which produces blood cells), cells of the hair, skin and mucous membrane of the mouth. This is the reason for which cancer patients tend to suffer the following side effects: anemia, hair loss (alopecia), mouth sores, fatigue, and others.  

Are There Different types of chemotherapy?  

Yes. Chemotherapy can be neoadjuvant or adjuvant  

Neo-adjuvant Chemotherapy - when administered before surgery, the therapy is called neoadjuvant. In this case, the chemotherapy is often designed to facilitate the operation by reducing the volume of the tumor:  for example in breast cancer, chemotherapy can be used to allow a less mutilating surgery. In other cases, a localized cancer of the esophagus for example, the therapy can be practiced to reduce the risk of recidivism.  

Adjuvant Chemotherapy – Adjuvant chemotherapy is when the therapy is started after surgery to remove cancer cells that are still present in the body  and which were not detected, but would be able to occur several years after surgery by creating a relapse. In short, adjuvant chemotherapy is a form of treatment used to prevent relapse.  

Chemotherapy is sometimes used as a systematic treatment for treating metastatic cancers, all cancers that have left their original location to migrate to other organs.  

 

How many cytotoxic agents a chemotherapy can include?  

A chemotherapy drug may contain just one cytotoxic agent, mono-Chemotherapy. The same, chemotherapy can contain multiple chemotherapic agents; this is called poly-chemotherapy.  

Are all chemotherapy treatments the same?  

There are different chemotherapy treatments depending on the nature of the drugs that are administered. The treatment combinations are called chemotherapy regimens. For instance, chemotherapy regimens for breast cancer include CAF (sometimes called FAC), CMF, EC and FEC – see chemotherapy regimens for more information.  

 

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