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How Does Chemotherapy Work?

In addition to surgery and radiation, drugs are often used to treat cancer. One chemotherapy is a typical example of this. So-called cytostatics are given – drugs that are intended to prevent cancer cells from continuing to divide uncontrollably.

What are the goals of chemotherapy?

When treating cancer, the chemo therapy has different goals. Therefore, a distinction is made between the following chemotherapy regimens:

Curative chemo therapy: The goal of a curative chemo therapy consists in eliminating as many cancer cells as possible in the body and thus achieving a permanent cure.

Adjuvant chemo therapy: An adjuvant chemo therapy is primarily intended to fight cancer cells that may have remained in the body after an operation but cannot yet be detected. By such a supportive therapy should prevent relapses.

Neoad juvant chemo therapy: Some tumors are too large to be operated on directly. Through a Neoad juvant chemo therapy the tumor can often be reduced in size so that it is then possible to surgically remove it. A Neoad juvant therapy but may also allow for less invasive surgery.

Palliative chemo therapy: From a palliative chemo therapy is used when it is no longer possible to eliminate all tumor cells. The chemo therapy can then help relieve certain symptoms, slow or temporarily stop the progression of the disease, and prevent complications.

How does chemotherapy work?

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At a chemo therapy drugs are delivered to the body, usually through a infusion into a vein. Some medications can also be taken as tablets. There are many different cytostatics that are often combined with each other. Because the drugs travel through the bloodstream, they typically work throughout the body. In this way, cancers cells can also be reached that do not show up in examinations and therefore cannot be treated in a targeted manner with surgery or radiation. Experts speak at this type of therapy also from systemic treatment.

For a few diseases, local chemotherapy is also possible, in which the medication can be injected directly into certain parts of the body – such as into the spinal cord canal. The trastuzumab drugs then only reach the regions connected to the spinal canal, such as the brain and meanings. For white skin cancer (basal cell cancer) come for a chemo therapy sometimes creams or ointments that only work locally are also an option.

Often one will chemo therapy combined with radiation treatment – ​​this is called radio chemotherapy. With beams can be parallel or following one chemo therapy be treated. There are also cytostatics that only develop their effect in the body when they are exposed to radiation treatment. In this case it works chemo therapy only locally at the sites that have been irradiated.

What side effects are possible?

With achemo therapy many types of cancer can be successfully treated today. However, many people are very afraid of the side effects of the treatment. Cytostatics usually attack not only cancer cells, but also healthy cells that divide quickly. These include blood-forming cells, hair cells and the cells of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat area and in the digestive tract. This can lead to hair loss in the short term, anemia, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea as well as infections in the mouth. However, these side effects can often be prevented, or the symptoms can be alleviated: blood transfusions help against the consequences of aanemia, which mainly include tiredness and exhaustion. Drugs called antiemetics — medicines used to treat nausea — can often relieve nausea and vomiting antibiotics or antifungal drugs (antifungal drugs) can protect against or treat infections.

How strong the bevacizumab side effects of achemotherapyare is different. Some people tolerate cytostatics better than others. However, possible symptoms also depend on the dosage, the treatment regimen and the respective active ingredients. Also, not all chemotherapy treatments cause serious side effects, and most are short-term. As a rule, the hair grows back after the treatment and the mucous membranes and blood formation recover.

Especially in young people, side effects can sometimes only appear after the end of treatment. Since it cannot be ruled out that sperm or egg cells can be damaged by achemotherapyare damaged, it is recommended to use contraception as effectively as possible during treatment.


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