Chemotherapy

What Is Chemotherapy?

Since the anti-cancer effects of nitrogen mustard were realized in World War II, the use of drugs to treat cancers has been developing at a rapid pace. In the past 35 years, more than 50 drugs have been identified to have significant anti-cancer effect. Currently more than 40 are available for use in treatment protocols. More are in investigation. In fact chemotherapy is now the primary treatment of choice for select cancers. It is used in conjunction with other therapies such as radiation therapy and surgery for many other cancers.

How Is Chemotherapy Used?

Chemotherapy drugs are used frequently in combinations that include two, three, or more different drugs. They are also used alone. Your physician selects your chemotherapy based upon the most recent information about treatments for your particular cancer. This information is determined through a painstaking and thorough process using clinical trials. One interesting fact is that it takes about 12 years and as much as $70 million dollars for a newly "discovered" cancer drug to progress from initial investigation to commercial availability.

Chemotherapy interferes or disrupts cancer cells while they are in the process of dividing into new cells. There are different categories of chemotherapy drugs based upon where this disruption occurs in the cancer cell's life cycle. This is one reason that doctors use different drugs in combinations. Disrupting a cell in more than one part of the division cycle may provide better "cell kill". Another reason that drugs are used together is that they may enhance each other's strength more than if used alone.

Why Are There Side Effects From Chemotherapy?

Researchers have not yet perfected a way to isolate the action of these chemotherapy drugs to working only on cancer cells. This is why there are side effects. The body's cells and tissues that normally divide rapidly are affected the most. These cells include hair, the lining of the mouth, esophagus and intestines and bone marrow. Side effects will vary from one drug to another. Not all people experience the exact same side effects. Your doctors and nurses will teach you about what kinds of side effects your drugs may cause. You will learn ways to watch for them and reduce other possible problems.

What Are The Chemotherapy Drugs That Are In Use Today?

For information about chemotherapy drugs, click on Chemocare.com for a complete listing of drugs and side effect management. MEDLINEplus is another good source where you can either search for the drug alphabetically or by name.

We have chemotherapy drug sheets that are available in Spanish and Vietnamese. Contact us if you would like one mailed to you.

The National Cancer Institute's online brochure, "Chemotherapy and You" is an excellent resource about chemotherapy. You may contact the Genesis Cancer Care Institute to have a copy sent to you.

Chemotherapy & Biotherapy Drug Information 

For information about chemotherapy drugs, click on Chemocare.com for a complete listing of drugs and side effect management. MEDLINEplus is another good source where you can either search for the drug alphabetically or by name.

We have chemotherapy drug sheets that are available in Spanish and Vietnamese. Contact us if you would like one mailed to you.

Please remember to ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the medications that you are being prescribed.

Cancer Treatment and You

Cancer Treatment and You Online Education

Genesis Cancer Care Institute now has an online class providing general information about treatments and support services for cancer patients and families.
Topics covered in the online class include:
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  • Caregiver Advice
  • Survivorship
  • Support Services

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Teresa Pangan, Cancer Care Dietitian, can help you incorporate healthy eating habits into your cancer care plan. 

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