Chemotherapy is a common medical treatment for cancer. It involves giving the body chemicals that either slow the growth of or kill cancer cells. As a result, chemotherapy can also stop cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy can be administered in a various ways, depending on the nature and severity of the cancer. It may be taken orally or applied to the skin. It also might be given via an IV or an injection. Similarly, chemotherapy may be the only cancer treatment given, or it may be used along with surgery, radiation therapy and other methods to rid the body of cancer.
How Chemotherapy Works
Chemotherapy can slow down cancer growth, reduce cancer symptoms and even cure cancer in some instances. But it is very strong medicine, so it can lead to a number of side effects. Chemotherapy is typically administered by a qualified health care professional during an office visit at a hospital or cancer clinic. Due to the strength of chemotherapy, it is typical to receive the medication in cycles. This usually involves receiving chemotherapy for a period of time, followed by a period of rest and recovery. This lets the body fight the cancer without being overwhelmed by the side effects of the drugs.
Chemotherapy Side Effects
Cancer is a deadly disease, and though the side effects of chemotherapy are strong, the benefits typically outweigh the risks of the treatment. Still, chemotherapy can cause a number of side effects so it’s important to be aware of these. The most common side effects of chemotherapy include fatigue, hair loss, nausea and vomiting, pain, mouth sores and reduced blood cell counts. But a variety of other side effects can also occur. Patients can cope with these side effects by getting plenty of rest, eating a healthy diet and getting help from others. Depending on the specific side effects, people having chemotherapy treatment may need to make arrangements with their employers to accommodate their ability to work based on the chemotherapy treatments.
SOURCES: U.S. National Cancer Institute