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Definition: What is chemotherapy?

Definition: What is chemotherapy?
Cancer chemotherapy involves the administration of drugs that will slow or stop the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be:

- Curative when used to destroy the primary tumor,

- Neoadjuvant or adjuvant when used to optimize the effectiveness of a treatment by surgery or radiotherapy,

- Palliative, to improve the quality of life of the patient by delaying the progression of cancer already advanced.

Depending on the nature of the tumor, effective drugs are not the same. In general, the proposed treatment includes several molecules, these associations can achieve better results than those obtained with each of the molecules administered alone, while limiting the doses and side effects that result.

Before chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is an aggressive treatment for the body that can disrupt the normal functioning of organs such as the liver, kidneys, heart, immune system cells ... Systematically, a pre-therapeutic is achieved: it consists mainly of biological and radiological assessments. The aim is to ensure that the patient's general condition is consistent with the treatment, monitor the effectiveness of chemotherapy and to monitor the occurrence of certain side effects. Sometimes a dental check will be proposed to prevent the occurrence of infections during cancer treatment. Finally, women of childbearing age should carry out an assessment of pregnancy, chemotherapy is toxic and therefore cons-indicated to the fetus. Maintaining contraception during treatment is essential. The possibility of a pregnancy can be discussed with the oncologist after cancer treatment.

The main side effects of chemotherapy and consequences
The chemotherapy attack cells that multiply quickly. This is the case of cancer cells, but unfortunately it is also one of some healthy cells of the body (hair, blood cells, cells of the gastric mucosa ...). This is why chemotherapy is associated with many side effects. Before treatment, the patient's doctor described the major side effects related to the proposed protocol. In most cases, preventive or curative treatments of these events help the patient get through this stage of cancer treatment.

- Haematological side effects
Some chemotherapy lead to the destruction of cells in the bone marrow that give birth to the blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Anemia (low red blood cell count and hemoglobin) results mainly severe fatigue. Treatment with erythropoietin (EPO) or blood transfusion is considered. Leukopenia (decrease in white blood cells or leukocytes) reduces the body's resistance to infections. Antibiotic treatment is sometimes given as a preventive measure. Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet counts) increases the risk of bleeding.

- Gastrointestinal side effects

Nausea and vomiting caused by some chemotherapy drugs can now be prevented through treatment called "antiemetics".

Similarly, the administration of "bumps transit" or laxatives instead helps fight against diarrhea and episodes of constipation which can be caused by some chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy can also affect the lining of the mouth. It is then necessary to minimize the installation of dry mouth by drinking water regularly, sucking or chewing chewing gum, ice ...

- Alopecia

Hair loss remains one of the side effects of chemotherapy most feared by patients. You should know that all chemotherapy drugs do not cause hair loss and, in any case, the phenomenon is reversible upon discontinuation of treatment. The headset port scalp cooling may be proposed to reduce the importance of alopecia.

- Sterility

Chemotherapy may cause temporary or permanent destruction of sperm. In women, the same way, there is a risk of infertility. These risks are explained and discussed with the patient before the treatment.

- Violations various

Impairment of renal, cardiac, muscular, neurological, sensory and psychological occur with certain molecules. It is impossible to describe exhaustively all risks in treatment, but fortunately, many are rare or exceptional.

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