Chemotherapy is a chemical therapy that targets cancerous cells in the body. It can come in many forms, but the goal of this medicine remains the same.
To understand how chemotherapy works, you must first understand how cancer, the disease it aims to treat, affects the body.
Cancer is much like the body’s natural cells, except they have mutated in such a way that their growth remains unchecked. They spread around the body, metastasize in the body, and proceed to absorb nutrients that other parts of the body need to function normally.
These cancerous parts will absorb nutrients from surrounding parts of the body. This is what makes cancer a life-threatening illness.
Chemotherapy targets the cancer by taking advantage of certain properties unique to cancer. This chemical-based treatment can uniquely target cancer while having a minimal impact on the remainder of the body.
Chemotherapy can exist in the form of pills or an injection. The way chemotherapy is administered will depend upon where in the body the cancer is. Cancer that has a rapid spread or a high growth factor will generally require chemotherapy treatments to be given intravenously.
Radiation, which is often paired with chemotherapy, can target a larger area than chemotherapy, but it may have a hard time eliminating a majority of the cancer in a patient’s body. The dosage required to completely eliminate cancer from the body in this way can cause significantly worse problems than the cancer.
Chemotherapy can be used to minimize the amount of radiation that a patient must receive. This leaves healthy parts of the body with fewer side effects than if radiation alone was received.
There are still many effects associated with chemotherapy. It is not a perfect process. Parts of the body that rapidly divide and multiply are often the parts that chemotherapy affects the most.
This includes skin, bone marrow, hair and the lining of the digestive tract. Patients experiencing this treatment may develop skin lesions and bone pains, lose their hair, or have a susceptibility to any number of digestive conditions.
The good news is that these symptoms tend to become less apparent as the amount of chemotherapy wanes. Patients who have successfully undergone chemotherapy will often naturally be able to reverse the side effects that chemotherapy can have on the body.
Researchers are currently working on new types of chemotherapy. These new types will allow for a finer targeting of cancerous cells while significantly minimizing the side effects that a patient may experience while undergoing treatment.