Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer affecting women worldwide. Literally unheard of, a couple of decades ago, the prevalence of the disease in recent times can be mostly attributed to exposure of toxins and radiation, lack of breast feeding, child birth after 30 years and genetics.
The standard method of treatment for breast cancer treatment is surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Sometimes clinical trials too are undertaken for newer treatment methods, with the consent of the patient.
Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer Treatment
One of the most rigorous kinds of treatments, chemotherapy involves the injection of chemicals into the body for destroying the cancer cells that have spread to other areas of the body from the main site. Chemotherapy drugs are sometimes combined to increase the efficiency of the treatment. Combination treatment is done when the cancer is very advanced and is of an aggressive nature.
Before chemotherapy is administered, the doctor will take into consideration several factors like the general health and medical history and the side effects will be explained to you in advance.
A consent form will have to be signed by the patient. As the treatment involves injecting toxic drugs, nausea, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhoea etc. are common side effects. Loss of hair is another side effect which most women find it difficult to deal with.
The Process Of Chemotherapy
The procedure of chemotherapy can be administered in a variety of ways depending on the stage and extent of cancer. Normally there are two ways by which chemotherapy is administered; orally or intravenously. The decision is taken by the doctor after considering the spread of cancer.
If the cancer is much advanced, neoadjuvant therapy is done in which the treatment more or less involves the use of chemotherapy, radiation treatment and finally surgery. This method helps in reducing the size of the tumour greatly before the surgery.
Once the tumour size is reduced, the surgery becomes a less invasive one with only a lumpectomy necessary. This therapy will also give an idea about the kind of chemotherapy that can help in further treatment.
In adjuvant chemotherapy, the patient is given chemotherapy after the surgery as the tumour could be localised and may not have spread far. Even in early stages of cancer, the cancer cells can escape and spread to other areas through the blood stream.
Adjuvant chemotherapy will help in cases where the cancer cells might have spread to other areas. The cells will be destroyed when the chemotherapy is administered after the surgery. This will reduce chances of recurrence as well. Adjuvant chemotherapy is administered after a lumpectomy and also a mastectomy.
The length of a chemotherapy session is determined by many factors like the extent of the cancer, the patient’s response to the chemotherapy drug and her tolerance level to bear the side effects of the chemotherapy. It is administered in cycles which last from three to six months. With the completion of one cycle, a gap is given for the body to recuperate before the treatment can be continued.