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Chemotherapy for Cancer Treatment: Uses and Side Effects

17 October, 2020 Reetika Singh

All the cells of the body exhibit certain properties like controlled growth, contact inhibition, etc. Such properties ensure that there is a regulated growth of cells. Here growth covers both aspects, that are, increase in number as well as size. Due to certain physical, chemical, or genetic factors, these basic properties of certain cells are altered. This disruption leads to the uncontrolled growth of cells. The mass of such cells is referred to as the Tumor. And the agents that led to this disruptive transformation are called as the Carcinogens.

Continued growth and metastasis may lead to adverse consequences. To avoid this, it is essential to detect and damage these tumor cells at the earliest. The only key to treat this cancerous state is its early detection.

Several therapies have been developed over the years that target and kill these cancer cells. The most prominent ones are:

  1. Radiotherapy: this mode of therapy irradiates the tumor mass with light waves of varying wavelengths. The mechanism is based on the targeted heating of the tumor mass.
  2. Chemotherapy: this method employs various chemical drugs. These drugs are designed to specifically target the tumor cells. They disrupt the metabolism of the cell and thus cause the killing.
  3. Biological Methods: These methods include immunotherapies and vaccine-mediated therapies. Several researchers have been trying to find out ways to enhance the immune attack on tumor cells. Tumor-targeting viruses and cancer-killing viruses have been discovered and genetically-modified.

In this article, we will focus on the Chemotherapeutic mode of treatment. Several pros and cons of this technique have highlighted over the years.

Let’s begin with studying the varied applications of this therapy,

Applications Of Chemotherapy:

The applicability of Chemotherapy for cancer is wide-ranging. It can be used to cure, contain, and also to manage the symptoms resulting due to tumorous growth.

A few of the applications can be:

  • To reduce the size of existing tumor mass by killing the tumor cells.
  • To abrogate metastasis to other parts of the body.
  • To manage the symptoms and pain, this is a part of palliative care that is provided to the patients dealing with end-stage cancers.
  • If the cancer is detected in the early stages then Chemotherapy can lead to complete removal of the tumor mass. But, if the detection is delayed and the size of the tumor has increased then this method can be used along with other cancer-targeting therapies.
  • Chemotherapy can be used after the surgical removal of tumor mass (for example, after lumpectomy in case of breast cancer). Here, it can be used to kill the remaining cells that can lead to the reversal of the cancerous state. This type of chemotherapy is known as Adjuvant Chemotherapy.
  • Certain chemical drugs used in Chemotherapy are also known for late-stage cancer patients. These drugs help to relieve pain.
  • They help to reduce the tumor size. This method can be conducted before surgical removal of the tumor mass. Reduced tumor size aids the process of tumor extraction. This type of Chemotherapy is known as Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy.
  • It can be employed for immune system disorders.
  • It is often used to prepare patients for bone marrow stem cell replacement therapy.
  • After reducing the efficiency of these chemotherapeutic drugs, these drugs can be used in cases of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. In these disorders, the body’s immune cells fail to distinguish between the self and non-self cells, and subsequently, start causing damage to the body’s cells.

Adverse Effects Of Chemotherapy:

Along with advantages, several shortcomings related to Chemotherapy have also come up in the past years. It has been pointed out that Chemotherapy can lead to the killing of normal cells along with the cancer cells. Some of the implications related to this side-effect are:

The additional killing of hair, blood, and skin cells.

Cells that line the intestinal lining and other parts of the alimentary canal were found to be damaged in some cases.

Related damage includes: 

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Hairloss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Sexual disorders
  • Infections and allergies
  • Oversensitivity to sunlight
  • Reduced hearing capacity
  • Appetite loss
  • Anemia, etc.

Several other side-effects have been related to Chemotherapy. The cancer patient should remain in constant touch with the oncologist to modulate the doses or schedule of Chemotherapy drugs, as and when required. You can buy cancer medicines and their price from experts who also the top cancer medicines provider in India.

Conclusion

We have seen the applications as well as the side effects related to employing chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer. In most cases, it is used as a co-therapy along with other cancer-treatments. The doses, schedule, and type of chemotherapeutic drug that is being administered are to be regulated on the regular basis to avoid side-effects as much as possible.