Why do we use chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a drug therapy that utilises potent chemicals to destroy harmful mutating cells in the body. Chemotherapy prevents cancer from spreading at an alarming rate. However, cancerous cells tend to multiply rather rapidly, eventually affecting different areas of the body. Once cancer remains undiagnosed and untreated, the risk of fatality is higher than average.

Cancer treatment (chemotherapy or radiation therapy) depends on the diagnosis and stage of the illness. However, the more advanced the cancer is, the faster the rate it spreads, and the more complicated the disease is to treat.

What is chemotherapy made of?

Chemotherapy consists of several drugs used to prevent the growth of cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is often a common treatment for several cancers and can be implemented after surgical resection of the malignant tumour. In this case, the primary treatment of cancer is ablation of the abnormal growth, followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy and hormone therapy sessions.

Essentially, chemotherapy drugs can be taken from natural sources like plants or bacteria, while other forms of chemotherapy are made from synthetic processes. Currently, over a hundred forms of chemotherapy are approved to treat different types of cancer.

Chemotherapy medications fall under certain categories, which include antimetabolites, alkylating agents and anti-tumour antibiotics. For example, Alkylating chemotherapy drugs treat leukaemia, cancer of the lungs and breast cancer. These types of agents work by damaging the cancer cell's DNA. By destroying the DNA of the cancerous cells, they will not be able to reproduce.

In contrast, antimetabolites destroy cancer cells by interrupting the normal metabolism of these cells. As a result, the cancerous cells are unable to replicate and cause more damage to the body. Antimetabolite drugs are used to treat ovarian and breast cancer.

Anti-tumour antibiotics are created from bacteria found in soil (Streptomyces) and work by changing the DNA of cancer cells, preventing the spread of cancer.

How do you administer chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously or orally, depending on your preference. However, chemotherapy is delivered timeously with breaks in between to help the body recover.

What is the outcome of cancer therapy?

Chemotherapy is the best way to reduce the size of tumours and stop cancer from metastasising. However, chemotherapy can be quite tiring, so many oncologists emphasise the value of rest between treatment sessions.



Are there side effects of chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy does not distinguish bad cells from good cells. As a result, cells that develop rapidly are attacked, such as
epithelial cells, blood and digestive cells.

Side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Partial or total loss of hair
  • Canker sores
  • Bleeding nose or gums
  • Recurrent infections

How often do I need chemotherapy?

You can receive chemotherapy daily, monthly or weekly, depending on the cancer stage and type of cancer.


At what stage of cancer is chemotherapy recommended?

Chemotherapy is usually recommended for stage four cancer.

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