Chemotherapy uses special drugs to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy drugs tend to target cells that grow out of control. These cells grow and create new cells in an unregulated way. These fast-growing cells spread around the body or become masses that we call tumors.
But because healthy cells also create new cells, chemo can harm them, too. This is what causes side effects.
Which Cancers Does Chemo Treat?
Chemo drugs can treat most cancers, specifically:
- Non-small cell lung cancers
What Can Chemotherapy Do?
Chemotherapy can work in your body to:
- Cure your cancer
- Control the growth and spread of the cancer
- Bring relief to cancer symptoms
The Pros & Cons of Chemo
Unlike other cancer treatments, chemo travels throughout your whole body. This has both positive and negative effects:
- The positive side: Chemo can reach and kill cancer cells growing in different parts of your body
- The downside: Chemo can kill healthy cells, too
Your doctor will need to weigh these factors when choosing your treatment.
When Do You Get Chemo?
Chemotherapy is used in 5 different ways:
- Before surgery, to shrink a tumor (neoadjuvant therapy)
- After surgery (adjuvant therapy)
- Primary therapy (by itself, without surgery or other drugs)
- Before other treatments (Induction)
- In combination with 2 or more other drugs
How Do You Get Chemo?
Usually, you get chemo drugs through an IV. This thin needle inserts into:
- Your hand, spinal cord, abdomen, pelvis, or chest
- A soft tube, or catheter, that goes into a large vein
- A catheter attached to a port
A pump can control how fast the drugs go into the catheter or port.
You can also get chemo:
- By swallowing a pill or liquid
- Via injections
- Applied to your skin
Chemo Side Effects
You may have just a few side effects or you might not have any. What you feel and how severe it is depends on the kind of chemotherapy you get, the dosage, and how your body reacts.
The most common side effects include:
- Chemo brain
- Lack of appetite
- Infections due to low blood cell counts
- Mouth and throat inflammation and sores
- Reproductive and sex issues
How to Manage the Side Effects
You don't have to suffer without relief. We have support teams, groups, and tips for managing side effects with self-care.