How Chemotherapy Is Administered
While there are several ways patients can receive chemotherapy, such as by swallowing a pill, the drugs are most commonly delivered using one of the following methods:
- Systemic Therapy – The drugs are injected into a vein, which enables the medicine to travel into the bloodstream, where it destroys cancer cells in its path.
- Intrapleural Therapy – The chemotherapy drugs are delivered directly into the chest via a small tube inserted through an incision in the skin.
- Intraperitoneal Therapy – The chemotherapy is delivered directly to the area of the body where the cancer is located, in this case the abdomen, via a small tube inserted through an incision in the skin.
Sometimes chemotherapy drugs are heated before being administered. This is believed to improve effectiveness.
Treatment is typically given in cycles, with periods of treatment followed by periods of rest. This rest period allows the body to regain strength and build healthy new cells before beginning the next cycle. A 3-week or 4-week cycle is common, and patients usually undergo more than one treatment cycle.
Determining Treatment Schedules
Treatments can be prescribed on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis, depending on factors such as:
- Type of cancer being treated
- Treatment goals, such as relieving symptoms, slowing the growth of the cancer, or achieving full remission of the cancer
- Types of drugs being used
- How a patient responds to specific drugs
Chemotherapy treatment may be scheduled in a doctor’s office, a clinic, a hospital, or a hospital outpatient department, or even at the patient’s home.
Chemotherapy Side Effects
The side effects a patient experiences depends upon the type of drugs used, the amount of the dosage, and how long the medicines are used. Doctors will do everything in their power to keep a patient comfortable, but sometimes side effects must be endured in order to kill the cancer.
The American Cancer Society’s list of common chemotherapy side effects:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Increased chance of infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
If you are undergoing chemotherapy treatments, make sure you tell your medical team about any side effects you experience. This information can help doctors adjust dosages and/or the types of medications they prescribe. The goal is to make you as comfortable as possible, while still aggressively fighting the cancer.