However, because chemotherapy does not only affect cancer cells, but also impacts normal cells of the body and the functions of other organs, there are side effects to this type of treatment. These include nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, loss of appetite, compromised immune system, diarrhea, and hair loss. These side effects may be mild or severe, depending on the type of drugs administered, the patient’s health, and the patient’s emotional readiness.
How is chemotherapy administered?
Chemotherapy drugs can be introduced into a patient’s body in many different ways, including:
- Oral chemotherapy – some chemotherapy drugs cannot be taken orally as the digestive system is not able to efficiently absorb the drug or it may be too irritating to the digestive system, causing nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
- Intravenous chemotherapy – this is the most popular method of administering drugs as it allows it to spread through the body most quickly.
- Intramuscular chemotherapy – this is not a popular method as the drugs can irritate and destroy the skin and muscles.
A patient may receive chemotherapy drugs through a combination of methods and may have to do so for one day or several days consecutively or once a week. The oncologist will select the formula and schedule for chemotherapy that is most appropriate for the type of cancer and the patient’s overall health.
Choosing Chemotherapy Drugs
Choosing the correct chemotherapy, including the type, quantity and duration it must be taken, is very important for the efficiency of the treatment of cancer. Since chemotherapy drugs are considered dangerous, excessive amounts of it can cause severe side effects. But if too little is given, it may not destroy the cancer cells.
In choose the formula for chemotherapy the oncologist will consider a number of factors, such as the type of cancer, the stage of cancer, the health of the patient, any other illnesses they may be suffering from, past cancer treatments (if any), side effects, and the reactions between chemotherapy drugs used together. Patients may receive just one drug at a time or multiple drugs. Using multiple drugs is more effective than using one drug at a time.
Duration of Chemotherapy Treatment
The length of treatment depends on the type of cancer, the stage of the disease and responsiveness to the drugs. Normally chemotherapy drugs are administered as a cycle, using one to five days per cycle, and each cycle is administered three to four weeks apart. A patient may, on average, receive six to eight cycles of chemotherapy (depending on the oncologist’s treatment plan). It is recommended that the patient keep every chemotherapy appointment that is scheduled for the most effective treatment.
Preparing for Chemotherapy
- Eat foods from all five food groups.
- Get enough rest and take one- to two-hour long after naps.
- If the patient has other existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension or others that require regular medication, please let the doctor know in advance.
- Prepare mentally and emotionally for the treatment by reducing stress and anxiety.
Self-Care While Undergoing Chemotherapy
- Notice the skin around the injection site. If it is painful, swollen, or red, or if it is suspected that medication is leaking out of the bloodstream, inform the nurse immediately.
- Drink plenty of water to flush out the drugs through the urine.
- Inform the nurse in the case of nausea and/or vomiting.
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