What is Chemotherapy? What Can You or Your Loved One Expect?
Millions of individuals are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. Learn more about chemotherapy and what to expect if you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with cancer.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy refers to the use of medications to treat a specific cancer; unlike radiation therapy or surgery which is designed to remove, kill, or damage cancer cells in a localized area, chemotherapy treats cancers in all areas of the body. This means that chemotherapy can be used to kill cancer cells that are in a single location or those that have metastasized to other areas. Chemotherapy may also be used to slow the cancer’s growth, keep the cancer from progressing, and to relieve cancer-related symptoms.
What to Expect
Most chemotherapy medications are administered using a catheter inserted into a vein in the hand or forearm. This intravenous treatment can be administered using a brief IV push, an IV infusion lasting 30 minutes to a few hours, or continuous infusion that can last anywhere from one to seven days. Other patients may receive chemotherapy orally with a pill, capsule, or liquid, while others may undergo intrathecal chemotherapy in which the medication is put directly into the spinal canal. Additional chemotherapy procedure options include intra-arterial, intracavity, intramuscular, intralesional, and topical treatments.
Possible Side Effects
The side effects of chemotherapy will vary based on the type of treatment; however, the most common side effects include anemia, fatigue, hair loss, increased chance of bruising, bleeding and infection, nausea, and vomiting. Patients will want to contact their doctor or oncologist if they experience:
- A fever of 100.5 degrees or higher
- Allergic reaction
- Intense headaches
- Shortness of breath
- Bloody stool or urine
- Long-lasting vomiting or diarrhea
The best way to determine if chemotherapy is the right option for you is to contact your Cancer Care Center . Let our highly trained staff members with West Hills Hospital & Medical Center help you determine the best cancer treatment for your needs. (818) 676-4000
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