Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. Many different types of drugs provide a therapy benefit. Chemotherapy medicines may be given an oral medication, but many require intravenous injections. These drugs kill cancer or limit the growth of cancer. Cancer cells are more susceptible to these medicines, but normal cells in the body can resist the injury. The chemotherapy will be carried through the blood to all parts of the body and cancer cells will then be exposed wherever they may be located. By comparison, surgery would require knowledge of the exact location of each cancer cell in order to remove it. Chemotherapy can treat cancer while sparing the normal tissues nearby.
Chemotherapy drugs may be combined with other therapy such as surgery or radiation therapy. Many patients need several kinds of therapy in order to best treat the cancer and minimize side effects. Dr. Martin will make decisions about the order of your treatment such as chemotherapy or surgery or radiation as the first step. Chemotherapy is often used at the same time as radiation because the chemotherapy will help the radiation work better. Chemotherapy may be given prior to surgery to create a partial response so that surgery can be less extensive.
The type of cancer being treated will determine which chemotherapy is expected to work best. Often there are multiple treatment recipes that will provide benefit. New chemotherapy drugs are being developed all the time, and provide the benefit of better response, increasing cure rates, and fewer side effects.
Chemotherapy side effects can be a great concern for patients. If you need chemotherapy, Dr. Martin will provide detailed information about possible side effects and methods to reduce risk. Our team will teach you what is important to report. You can help us monitor your progress so that we can intervene and resolve any side effects and prevent any danger.
Many patients fear nausea. Powerful new medicines are available to treat nausea. Most patients will not have vomiting from therapy. A temporary loss of appetite is more common. One important side effect is a low blood count such as becoming anemic, having a low platelet count, or low white blood cell count. If you need chemotherapy, Dr. Martin will frequently check laboratories during treatment to ensure safety and adjust doses to match what your body will tolerate. Some medicines affect hair and would create hair loss. Many chemotherapies do not affect hair.
Office chemotherapy is routinely provided at our office. Most chemotherapies are tolerated easily with the help of moderate support medicines. After a several hour visit with our infusion nurses they are able to return home and often work a normal job the following day.