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 cancer chemotherapy                                                             


Types and Purposes of Chemotherapy

With advances in medical science, it is now possible to take chemotherapy in several forms: intramuscularly, subcutaneously, intravenously and by mouth. However, most chemotherapy drugs are taken intravenously (intravenous injection). In general, the type and form of chemotherapy you are given depends on the type of cancer you have or regimen (see chemotherapy regimen) recommended by your oncologist.  

Chemotherapy is used for different objectives. Chemotherapy can be given with intent to cure; in this case, you will receive stronger doses and, most of the times, several chemical agents (polychemotherapy). The same, the therapy can be performed to prolong life or palliate symptoms. Chemotherapy can also be used as a neoadjuvant therapy to shrink the tumor in order to make possible a surgical therapy. Each of its goals affects the type of drug used, method of administration and the length of the therapy. In general, your health care provider will chose the most appropriate and effective method to fight your condition.  

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: neo-adjuvant chemotherapy is considered as preoperative treatment. It is used to reduce the size of the tumor to make it successfully operable. For example, neo-adjuvant chemotherapy of breast helps reduce the size of a tumor in the breast, allowing the surgeon to perform an effective or conservative surgery to avoid mastectomy and its complications. 

Adjuvant chemotherapy: in contrast to neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, adjuvant chemotherapy is a postoperative treatment. That is, the therapy is performed after surgery or radiotherapy to destroy cancer cells that have migrated to other parts of the body. The goal of adjuvant chemotherapy is to reduce the risk of recurrence, and increase or enhance the curative effects of the surgery or radiotherapy. Adjuvant chemotherapy is more effective in destroying cells of new cancer of which cells divide rapidly.  

Palliative chemotherapy - sometimes, the diagnosis is made when the cancer is at an advanced stage, and there is no hope of cure; palliative treatment is the only option to reduce the symptoms of the disease. Palliative chemotherapy, although it does not lead to cure, it helps relieve symptoms, improve the quality of life, and sometimes prolong life. Unlike curative chemotherapy, your doctor should be cautious about the toxicity of the treatment; if the toxicity is significant, the treatment can improve symptoms rather than decrease them, which is the goal of the treatment.  

Curative chemotherapy - this form of chemotherapy is used with intention to completely cure the cancer. Instead of treating symptoms (palliative chemotherapy), curative chemotherapy attacks cancer cells, and destroys them completely. In this form of treatment, the oncologist tends to use stronger drugs to increase the chances of complete recovery. In fact, your doctor may need to "take risks, which often resulting in significant side effects and the need for transfusions or hospitalizations. In addition, curative chemotherapy is often combined with other treatments such as surgery and/or radiotherapy. Many cancers are treated with curative chemotherapy nowadays.