Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with specific drugs that can destroy cancer cells. There has been much research in the field of cancer management with the intent to find the small differences between cancer cells and healthy cells.
One way that cancer cells are different is that they divide very rapidly. Drugs classified as chemotherapy work by destroying those cells. Unfortunately, healthy cells can also be harmed, especially those which divide rapidly. Many of the side effects from chemotherapy are related to the effect that chemotherapy has on our healthy cells and our body’s attempt to protect and repair itself.
There are other ways that cancer cells vary from healthy cells. Drugs designated as “Targeted Therapies” have helped us manage several different kinds of cancers based on exploiting these small differences in cancer cells and healthy cells. Every chemotherapy and targeted therapy drug is different and can cause a variety of side effects. Contrary to popular belief, many of these side effects can be easily managed with prescription drugs, relaxation, exercise, good nutrition, and complimentary/alternative medicine. In particular, there have been great strides made in the field of nausea management during treatment. We offer several different drugs to treat nausea and there are many natural remedies you can try as well.
It is important to remember that there is no “one size fits all” treatment. Every cancer is different just as every person is different. The treatment regimen that your doctor decides on is based on what he believes is the best treatment for your particular cancer. Since it is best to attack cancer in more than one way, your regimen could include a combination of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation and possibly surgery.
It is also important to remember that since our goal is to treat your cancer but keep the rest of you healthy, your treatment plan is not set in stone and may change if your doctor thinks there is a better treatment option for you. You may hear, or read online, about someone else’s experience with cancer treatment. It is important, however, to remember that just as everyone’s cancer is different, everyone’s reaction to cancer treatment will be different.
After the physician decides which treatment option is best for you, we will schedule a chemo education session with one of our nurse practitioners. During this session, she will go over your particular regimen along with all possible side effects. She will tell you how many treatments you will get, approximately how long they will last and how far apart they will be from each other. She will give you educational materials and answer any questions you may have about your treatment. We encourage you to bring one or two people with you to this session so that they can help you remember all the information later on.