Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic = toxic to cells) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs work by disrupting the way cancer cells grow and divide. Different cancers are treated with different chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can be used singly or in combination depending on the condition being treated.
Chemotherapy treatment can either:
- Attack cancer cells throughout the body
- Target specific sites or processes
A doctor may recommend chemotherapy:
- To shrink a tumour before radiotherapy or surgery
- To remove any remaining cancer cells after radiotherapy or surgery and prevent a recurrence
- To slow disease progression and reduce symptoms in the later stages, even if a cure is unlikely
While chemotherapy is an effective treatment for many patients, its potential side effects due to the damage to healthy cells cause worry and understandable fear to many. Most of its side effects are short term which means that it will go away once treatment is completed.
Types of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can be given in several ways. Your doctors will recommend the most suitable type of chemotherapy drug for you.
The most common types are:
- chemotherapy is given into a vein (intravenous chemotherapy) – this is usually done in hospital and involves medicine being given through a tube in a vein in your hand, arm or chest
- chemotherapy tablets (oral chemotherapy) – this usually involves taking a course of medication at home, with regular check-ups in hospital
You may be treated with one type of chemotherapy medicine or a combination of different types. You’ll usually have several treatment sessions, which will typically be spread over the course of a few months.
Side effects of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy could damage some healthy cells in the body, such as blood cells, skin cells and cells in the stomach.
This can cause a range of discomfort side effects, such as:
- Feeling sick and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Dry, sore or itchy skin
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
Many of these side effects can be treated or prevented and most, if not all, will pass after treatment stops.
Multidisciplinary Team Approach: Working Together to Fight Cancer
Cancer treatment requires different strategies for treatments. Chemotherapy can be combined with other treatments such as radiotherapy or following surgery to maximize outcomes.
At Beacon Hospital, we understand that each cancer patient is unique with complex needs. Our team of experienced specialists (oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and nurses) will work with you to discuss a suitable form of treatment for you. We plan a suitable treatment for your cancer type based on a detailed diagnosis. Together, we review all the factors that may affect your treatment to help prevent unexpected health problems and identify your supporting care needed.
Patient Assistance Programme
Chemotherapy drugs are expensive and the mounting cost of chemotherapy treatment has caused many patients to delay or skip their treatment. In order to reduce patients’ financial burden, Beacon Hospital serves as a liaison and working with Patient Assistance Programs from Pharmaceutical companies on your behalf to find a suitable financial support if you meet the financial and socio-economic criteria. Please find out more detailed information from your Oncologist or Pharmacist.