Diagnosis and Therapy, Drug Therapy

How does Chemotherapy Work to treat Cancer?

It a normal to feel worried or overwhelmed when you find out that you need chemotherapy. However, you all might have questions...

Written by James Moore · 4 min read >
treat Cancer

It a normal to feel worried or overwhelmed when you find out that you need chemotherapy. However, you all might have questions about what to expect during chemotherapy? It is obvious to show curiosity about something we are not aware of and want to know more about. And learning more about this type of treatment may help you feel more prepared and less anxious. Maybe this information gets you ready for your first treatment. 

What is Chemotherapy?

It is a drug treatment that used powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in your body. Chemotherapy is primarily used in cancer treatment, as we know that cancer cells grow and multiply much more quickly than most cells in the body. Chemotherapy medicines can be utilised singly or in combination to treat a wide variety of cancers. 

Although chemo is an effective way to treat many types of cancer, they also carry their side effects. Some chemotherapy side effects are moderate and can be cured, while others can create severe difficulties. 

Chemotherapy team

To performing chemotherapy, a confident trained medical team come together to give you the best possible care. Following healthcare professionals might be included in the section:

Medical Oncologist 

This type of doctor specialises in treating cancer with medication. Your medical oncologist works closely with our team members to create your overall cancer treatment plan. They lead your chemotherapy treatments. 

Oncology nurses and oncology physician assistants (Advance Provider) meet the patient and collaborate with a supervising medical oncologist. Following are their responsibilities – 

-Giving Physical Examinations.

-Organising and interpreting lab and symptomatic test outcomes. 

-They prescribe and administer medications and other therapies, including chemotherapy.

-Counselling for patients and providing education for families.

Oncology nurse  

An oncology nurse who specialises in cancer care. Apart from giving chemotherapy, oncology nurses can also do the below-mentioned tasks:

-Monitor your health during the treatment.

-Answer questions about treatment.

-Assist you in managing the side effects of therapy.

Other healthcare professionals 

Your physical, mental, emotional, and social needs are taken care of during chemotherapy. Healthcare professionals like Pharmacists, Social workers, Registered dietitian nutritionists. Physical therapists and Dentists.

Before Chemotherapy

A patient’s unique need is considered before each chemotherapy treatment plan is created. Before treatment starts, you can expect to take these general steps:

Meet your Oncologist

The doctor will look at your medical records and do a physical examination. Some tests are carried out to help plan your treatment. The size, type and location of cancer will decide your exact treatment. Other factors like age, general health and previous cancer treatments will be observed. 

Learned about your chemotherapy schedule 

Your health care team will explain when and how often you need chemotherapy. Most chemotherapy procedures are given in recurring periods. The range of a process depends on the medication you obtain. Most sequences range from 2 to 6 weeks. The number of therapy doses scheduled within all cycles also depends on the guided Chemotherapy.

Give permission for chemotherapy

Your oncologist or the doctor handling your case will explain when and how often you will need the chemotherapy. They will discuss the potential short term and long term side effects of taking chemotherapy. It’s an excellent time for you to ask questions and share any concerns. Once you have decided to move forward, the healthcare team will ask you to sign an informed consent form. 

Signing the form means

The team has given you information on treatment options, You have chosen to take chemotherapy, you are allowing healthcare professionals to deliver treatment, you understand that the treatment is not guaranteed to give the intended results, you also understand that there are possible risks like side effects, that might take place because of treatment.

Learn how food and medication can affect chemotherapy

You will be guided by your healthcare team about what food and drink you should take and avoid during the treatment. It will help your treatment to work best. Inform your chemotherapy team about any prescription or non-prescription medicines you take. It includes vitamins, supplements or herbs. So any drug interaction or side effects can be avoided. Further, your doctor will guide you on whether to take those medicine or not during the chemotherapy treatment. 

How to plan a chemotherapy treatment?

There are steps you  need to take before begining the treatment:

Make a caregiving plan

People undergoing Chemotherapy may require additional help during therapy with transport, home chores, and other tasks. Relatives and friends can contribute invaluable support during this time, called caregiving. Ask your team what type of caregiving at home you may want through and after treatment. 

Be prepared for side effects.

You will be informed prior about the side effects, and you need to be prepared mentally. These may include vomiting, nausea, fatigue, and other side effects. You might recommend eating well and follow some routine exercise. Relieving physical and emotional side effects is a vital part of your overall cancer treatment. 

Get help with finance.

You must talk to your healthcare team regarding your treatment’s expense or financial condition, as cancer treatments can be costly. Also, confirm if any insurance coverage is included, this will help to plan your finances. If your health insurance covers the entire cost of your treatment, you can contact organisations providing finance. 

What happens during chemotherapy?

There are different ways to receive chemotherapy. Drugs given through needles in veins is the most common way. This is called intravenous or IV chemotherapy. This therapy can also be taken as a pill, capsule, or liquid by mouth, as an injection or shot, or as a cream put directly on your skin.

At times you will be given medicine before your therapy procedure that can make you drowsy, so you may require someone who can drive you home.

Before your treatment starts, you will:

  • Blood samples will be taken.
  • Meeting with your oncologist so they can check your health and blood test results.
  • Blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and temperature is measured before starting treatment.
  • Your height and weight are measured to find the correct dose of therapy.
  • A catheter is put into your arms.

What after chemotherapy ends?

Later your therapy session ends, the therapist or another health care team member will take out your IV. If you have a port, it will stay in until you finish all of your treatments. The attendant will monitor your blood pressure, pulsation, breathing, and temperature again.

Your oncologist or nurse will talk with you about what to anticipate with side effects. They will give you medication, tell you how to handle common side effects.

Chemotherapy weakens your body’s immune system. You should avoid people with colds or other infections. Drink lots of fluids for 48 hours after chemotherapy, and it will help move the drugs in your body. 

Don’t forget to ask for an emergency contact number of a person you should connect with if you have any concerns. By keeping yourself educated before and after the therapy procedure, you will experience the overall process with ease.

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