Chemotherapy is a widely-used cancer treatment method due to its flexibility for adapting to patients’ personal health needs, as well as its effectiveness in killing cancer cells or supporting other treatment methods. At Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center, we offer professional support for cancer patients as a provider of radiation cancer therapy and an information resource on cancer conditions and treatment.
To ensure that you are armed with the information that you need to have a detailed understanding of the treatment process when battling cancer, we have
put together this guide on the most frequently asked questions about chemotherapy.
What is Chemotherapy?
Commonly referred to simply as “chemo”, chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses cancer-fighting drugs to kill off cancer cells, prevents cancer from growing or spreading to other parts of the body, or shrinks cancer so it can be removed or possibly better treated with other treatment methods.
Are There Different Types of Chemotherapy?
There are many kinds of drugs that all fight cancer, which makes chemotherapy such a flexible and customizable form of cancer treatment. Medical oncologists will use different combinations of drugs to customize a patient’s cancer treatment based on the type, stage, and location of the cancer as well as the patient’s overall personal health to ensure that they get the most effective treatment possible.
Some patients may take a single drug for their chemotherapy treatment, called a single dose agent, while other patients will take several drugs at the time, which is called combination chemotherapy. These chemotherapy drugs can also be administered in a variety of ways, including an IV (intravenous), a pill or liquid taken orally, or a topical cream applied to the body.
How Does Chemotherapy Fight Cancer?
Cancer causes cells in the body to multiply rapidly, creating extra cells that your body doesn’t need while old, damaged cells don’t die off like they should. These rapidly growing cells are invasive, spreading to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy drugs are designed to slow down or stop the growth of these cancer cells entirely, preventing cancer from advancing to later stages or spreading to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy drugs targets cancer cells by identifying and attacking cells that are growing rapidly, which is why it leaves most of the healthy cells in your body intact.
Why Did My Doctor Recommend Chemotherapy and Another Treatment?
While chemotherapy can be used as a standalone cancer treatment, your oncologists will always try to provide patients with the most effective treatment that has the highest chance of the best outcome for the patient. Since there are other effective cancer treatments out there, such as radiation therapy or surgery, your doctors will use the best combination of the options available to treat cancer based on the stage, location, and type. For example, radiation therapy can be used to shrink a tumor to the point where it can be removed through surgery, and then the patient will go through chemotherapy to prevent any remaining cancer cells in the body from spreading or growing.
Why Do Chemotherapy Patients Lose Their Hair?
Since chemotherapy drugs identify and attack cancer by targeting cells that have a very rapid growth rate, they often attack the other non-cancerous cells in our body that have a high growth rate as well, such as the cells that make up our hair. As the drugs attack those hair cells, the hair will begin to fall out all over the body, not just on the head.
Contact Your Local Cancer Center To Learn More
If you didn’t find the answers that you were looking for among these frequently asked questions on chemotherapy, contact us and a member of our cancer care team will get you the information you need. Our local cancer treatment center in Soldotna, AK, proudly supports patients from the Kenai Peninsula and those who come from all around the world, providing them with the care and support that they need.