What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs (cytotoxic, anti-neoplastic or plain anticancer) to treat cancer. The chemo drugs come in different forms and strength and are given

Why is Chemotherapy given?

  • · To target and destroy abnormal cells
  • · To reduce size of large tumours in advanced disease
  • · To minimize disease spread by destroying circulating cancer cells
  • · To ease symptoms of disease

How is chemotherapy given?

Chemotherapy drugs differ in form and strength therefore, they are given by different routes and at doses specific to each patient. Chemotherapy dosing is further broken down into cycles to allow the body to rest in between treatment visits. It can be given as tablets (orally), injections (intramuscular or intravenously) and as creams (topically). Our oncologists and nurses discuss with each patient their individualized plan before treatment begins.

What are some side effects of chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy drugs are effective in killing cancer cells, but they also harm normal cells, resulting in side effects. The good news is, normal cells can recover post treatment. Side effects of chemotherapy vary depending on drug type and dosage. Your oncologist will discuss potential side effects with you. Side effects may be immediate (short-term) or delayed (long-term)

Short-term side effects

These usually occur during chemo treatment. They include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Alopecia
  • Photosensitivity

Long-term side effects

  • Damage to major organs e.g. kidney, heart and lungs
  • Reproductive/fertility problems
  • Anaemia
  • Developing second cancer

What preparations can I make before I start my chemo treatment

  • Arrange for transportation or for a relative to come with you to your chemo sessions
  • Speak to your doctor on how chemotherapy can affect your ability to have children
  • If your drugs can cause hair loss – arrange to get a wig if you will need one.
  • Get to know possible side effects and how you can manage them
  • You may need to arrange time off school or work to get to your chemo appointments