Chemotherapy is widely used in medicine to combat malignant tumors. The method is based on the insertion into the body of potent toxic drugs that destroy cancer cells or stop their development. By direct intervention in the process of cellular expansion, the doctor is able to correct the disturbances in the patient’s body. Cancer treatment with chemotherapy in many cases becomes the only way to save a person’s life. In our review, we take a closer look at how the procedure is carried out, its effectiveness, and possible complications.
When is chemotherapy performed? Chemotherapy is the main treatment is used for systemic oncological diseases that affect the entire body: leukemia, malignant lymphoma, etc. In other types of cancer, chemical treatment becomes part of complex therapy. First of all, in the presence of a solid tumor. Solid is a tumor of a certain location, which can be probed or visualized during an examination (ultrasound, x-rays, MRI, computed tomography). For example, carcinoma or sarcoma, which develop, respectively, on the skin, mucous membranes, bone, soft and nervous tissues. Sometimes chemotherapy is prescribed in the absence of a visible tumor after surgery to improve the outcome and prevent relapse (breast cancer). If a patient has isolated malignant nodules, the course is carried out before the operation in order to reduce the size.
Chemotherapy treatment – the main effects of pills
In oncology, for the treatment of cancer, about 60 different medications are used, with 2 main properties:
Chemotherapy drugs, according to the mechanism of action on the body, chemical preparations are divided into two large groups:
Cytotoxic. The action is aimed at the destruction of pathological tissues. The effect is achieved by affecting the structure of DNA and enzymes, which leads to the death of a cancer cell. The most well-known drugs are based on daunorubicin, doxorubicin, carminomycin. The main drawback of drugs is their low selectivity in relation to cancer cells. They are capable of disrupting the functioning of the blood-forming organs, the digestive system, the gastrointestinal tract. Antitumor antibiotics should be combined with corticosteroids and used in combination with radiation therapy.
Cytostatic. These are enzymes that work by a more benign technology. Their task is to stop cell division due to intoxication, disrupt vital activity and achieve tumor necrosis. The most common group of drugs is anthracyclines. Also known drugs, mitomycin, mitoxantrone.
Chemotherapy treatment is usually carried out by courses – taking medicines alternately with interruptions to enable the body to recover. The treatment regimen, dosage, and route of administration are determined by the doctor, based on the results of a detailed examination.
But what is the cost of chemotherapy?
A 2017 cost-effectiveness study of Alimta (pemetrexed) plus cisplatin reported a total cost of $45,422 for first-line mesothelioma treatment. The cost varies depending on the exact drugs used, how many rounds are given, and other factors specific to each patient.
Basic principles of chemotherapy
The main condition for prescribing cancer drug therapy is a thorough examination, identification of indications, and consideration of contraindications for treatment. The most important principles of chemotherapy include:
- Rational choice of drug taking into account the diagnosis and after histological examination of tumor tissue;
- Combination of drugs to obtain the maximum therapeutic effect;
- Drug dose selection;
- Therapy regimen (course duration, frequency rate and methods of administration, intervals between courses);
- The regularity of check-ups and the determination of types of hardware diagnostics
- It is important to trust the doctor – the choice of method and treatment regimen followed by strict compliance with the oncologist’s prescriptions will help to overcome a dangerous disease.
Advantages of this medical technique
Chemotherapy treatment allows solving the following problems in the fight against a malignant tumor:
- Stop the growth of tumors;
- Reduce the risk of complications;
- Prevent metastasis;
- Crush metastatic cancer in distant organs;
- Create favorable conditions for surgical removal of the tumor;
- Completely remove cancer.
Protocols and methods of chemotherapy for cancer
- The following factors influence the choice of treatment for oncology: type of tumor and localization;
- The ultimate goal (to heal completely, reduce the size, prevent relapse, etc.);
- Patient response to specific drugs
During the examination, the patient is diagnosed with the type of oncology and the stage of development of the disease, assess the general physical condition and relate it to contraindications. Chemotherapy is carried out both on an outpatient basis and in a hospital. Most drugs are administered intravenously, although there are active substances designed for oral use. For the treatment of certain tumors (liver cancer, lung cancer, melanoma) an isolated infusion is used — a high dose of the drug is administered to the affected area, avoiding damage to the whole body. However, the method allows you to control only individual metastases. If cancer concerns the central nervous system, intrathecal chemotherapy can be used when the drug is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain or spinal cord.
Successful treatment with chemotherapy is most clearly manifested in pediatric oncology for blood diseases (leukemia) when using a properly selected course of drugs can cure a sick child. In some diseases, the use of medicines does not make sense ( kidney cancer ). The development of modern biomedical technologies allows us to hope for the emergence of new drugs that will help defeat cancers that are insensitive to chemotherapy.