It is mostly used for cancer that has spread, because it works throughout the body. Chemotherapy can control the size and spread of a tumour, thereby extending the patient’s life expectancy and improving quality of life.
Surgery or radiotherapy is used to remove the tumour. Because chemotherapy can attack cancer cells throughout the body, it is used to ensure that all cancer cells are eradicated. It is also used before surgery to reduce the size of the tumour.
It can be administered directly into a vein by syringe, like an ordinary injection. It only takes a few seconds. It can also be administered over a longer period by means of an infusion – the medication flows from a plastic bag suspended from a stand via a plastic tube through the needle into the vein, at a regulated speed. The needle is kept in position with a sturdy plaster and the infusion may last from a few minutes to a few hours.
Although it’s good to be well informed, too much information from different sources can be confusing.
It’s very important to talk to the oncologist and nursing staff at the clinic and to keep them informed about your reaction to the treatment.
Keep a notebook and write down any side effects of the treatment and questions you might have. Take it with you to each treatment session and consult the oncology team. Keep asking until you feel reassured about your treatment. No question is too unimportant to ask.
The drugs that attack cancer cells also inhibit division in body cells, particularly those that divide quickly, such as bone marrow cells.
Bone marrow produces various cells that need to recover and increase to a certain level after chemotherapy. That is why chemotherapy is administered at intervals, to give normal cells a chance to recover.
A blood count measures the levels of these cells in the blood
Further chemotherapy is postponed if the blood levels are not normal, because that means the body is not yet ready for the next treatment.
Allow your family or friends to take over tasks such as the children’s lift club and shopping.
Learn relaxation techniques
Eat a healthy diet
Avoid pent-up stress and anxiety – talk about your feelings.
The side effects of Chemotherapy – such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, affected sense of taste, Cystitis (bladder infection), Stomatitis, diarrhoea, skin problems and affected sexuality are all explained on our Side Effects page.