Cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
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.
What Is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy is the use of x-rays or gamma rays to destroy cancer cells. It is a common cancer treatment. Almost half of all cancer patients will receive radiation therapy at some time during the course of their treatments. Radiation therapy is used either alone or in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy. Radiation works by damaging a cell's DNA. This kills the cell because it cannot grow and divide.
Are There Different Kinds of Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy is a local therapy used to treat a tumor in a specific area of the body. There are two basic methods for the delivery of radiation therapy. The most common method is external radiation therapy. It is also called teletherapy and external beam therapy. This therapy is delivered by a large machine such as a linear accelerator. This machine creates a beam of radiation x-rays or electrons that travel an exact path to the tumor area. Another method is by an internal method called brachytherapy. In this form of radiation therapy, a source of radiation is actually placed inside the body surrounding the tumor. Another method of delivery involves using an unsealed source that is taken up by the body's metabolism and targets to the tumor area.
Are There Side Effects With Radiation Therapy?
Because the radiation does pass through normal tissue, there are some side effects from its use. These side effects involve the area being treated. For example, if you are receiving radiation therapy for a breast cancer, you will not have problems with your legs from the therapy. Your radiation oncologist, radiation therapists and radiation nurse will talk with you and your family about what to expect with your radiation therapy treatments. They will monitor you closely and work with you and other health care staff to minimize side effects and their effect on you.
The National Cancer Institute's online booklet, "Radiation Therapy and You" is an excellent resource for explanation about radiation therapy. Our Radiation Therapy pages provide more exact information about the effects of radiation therapy.
Genesis Cancer Care Institute is committed to not only providing you with the latest technological advances in treatments for cancer, but also to providing you with the knowledge and tools to continue to live a healthy and meaningful life. For more information about our services, please call us at 563-421-1900 or 1-800-446-6088 or send an email.