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The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Chemotherapy

An effective and aggressive way of cancer therapy, chemotherapy has long been used to destroy cancer cells within the body. As cancer cells tend to grow and divide much faster than any other cells, chemotherapy is largely used to treat different types of cancer, such as leukemia, lung cancer, melanoma, and much more. Although chemo is usually used combined with other cancer treatments, such as radiation or surgery, in some cases, oncologists may recommend chemotherapy alone, especially in first-stage diagnoses or benign tumors. Chemotherapy has proven its effectiveness and forcefulness around the globe, with Australia, the USA, Canada, and Finland as the leading countries providing the best chemotherapy treatment. Here is everything you need to know about the chemotherapy meaning, how it works, and various chemotherapy costs in leading health tourism countries.

What is Chemotherapy?

One of the most commonly used ways to treat cancer, chemotherapy is a drug treatment that aims to kill cancerous cells. The choice of the chemotherapy agents and drugs mostly depends on the type and stage of cancer the patient has, their overall health, previous – if any – cancer treatments, and the tumor’s location or cancel cells. Personal treatment preferences are also an important factor in the final decision of a chemotherapy treatment plan.

How Does Chemotherapy Work?

Chemotherapy benefits the cancer treatment plan in a systemic way where the drugs target cells that grow and divide quickly, such as cancer cells. Chemotherapy does not target any specific areas like radiation or surgery would do, therefore affecting the entire body, as well as other rapidly-growing cells, including skin, intestines, bone marrow, and, most commonly, hair.

While chemotherapy uses a variety of different drug combinations designed to fight cancer, the intent behind the treatment plan may vary depending on the doctor’s and patient’s mutual agreement. While in some cases, chemotherapy treatment can achieve ultimate success and destroy all of the cancer cells in the body, sometimes the sole aim of chemotherapy can be to control cancer from spreading or slow down the growth of the tumor. In end-stage cases, chemotherapy is usually advised as a way to ease symptoms by shrinking tumors that cause pressure or pain.

What Types of Cancer Can Be Cured with Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is most commonly prescribed in combination with surgery, radiation therapy, and biological therapy. While the clear-cut treatment plan depends on the type of tumor, the stage of cancer, and the patient’s wellbeing, there are various types of cancers that chemotherapy has been proven to benefit from. While chemotherapy for lung cancer is usually recommended with a combination of radiation, chemotherapy for prostate cancer or chemotherapy for ovarian cancer is usually executed right after surgical removal of the tumor. An experienced oncologist will be able to combine the best alternative in the patient’s treatment plan, looking at the outcome of various data, including an MRI, a CT scan, bloodwork, and in some cases, a biopsy.

Receiving Chemotherapy: Various Ways of Treatment

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There are various ways a physician can prescribe the chemotherapy medication to be given to the patient. This, too, depends on the stage of cancer, the urgency of the treatment, and the overall health of the patient. Most patients with the first-stage diagnosis receive chemotherapy drugs with a shot directly into the muscle beneath the skin. In contrast, patients with a long-haul chemo plan are asked to receive a chemotherapy port attached directly to a large vein in the chest. This small disc helps the needle be left in place for a few days, making it easier for patients to receive their drugs daily.

Although intravenous delivery and injection are the most common chemotherapy regimens, intraperitoneal, intrathecal, topical, and oral delivery are also considered effective methods in chemotherapy planning.

Most Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Because chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, it affects the entire body, causing multiple, at times severe, and challenging side effects. While almost all patients tend to feel ill and tired right after a chemotherapy session, the most common side effects of chemotherapy are usually revealed in the long run. Hair loss, diarrhea, mouth sores, excessive bleeding, easy bruising, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting are the most noticeable side effects a chemotherapy treatment can bring. Doctors help patients manage these side effects with the latest technology, medication, and modern solutions.

While in chemotherapy hair loss is an unpleasant yet temporary side effect, there’s also a risk of lasting results that can occur even decades after the treatment, affecting the patient’s lifestyle and personal choices. Chemotherapy can damage the reproductive organs, nerves, kidneys, and heart and even cause a secondary cancerous tumor. It is important for patients to talk to their doctors thoroughly before beginning treatment in order to weigh out the possible risks the treatment could bring.

Taking Care of Yourself During & After Chemotherapy

During chemo, it is important for the patient and their oncologist to be in constant communication, with the oncologist advising the patient on various tips such as visiting the dentist before beginning the treatment, managing arrangements for work, or joining a support group.

In between chemotherapy sessions, the patient may experience an unusual decrease in certain blood percentiles such as platelets, hemoglobin, and white blood cells. In such cases, the cancer team may ask the patient’s inner circle to look for donors that can donate blood or make a donation themselves. This will help the blood values rise back to their norm and ease the cancer patient between sessions.

After chemotherapy, the cancer treatment team will be regularly monitoring the patient’s outlook and the overall effectiveness of the approach closely. It is very important to stay positive and have a group of close family and friends that show support during the entire course of therapy. Once the chemotherapy is successfully concluded, the patient will be asked to check in regularly with various blood tests and imaging techniques over a span of years to come. Since there is always a risk that the cancerous cells may come back, it is essential to monitor the progress routinely to stay alert and benefit from early diagnosis.

To get information about chemotherapy options abroad, learn the cost of chemotherapy in different countries, and come across various chemotherapy alternatives in foreign hospitals, click here.

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