Chemotherapy is a treatment based on the taking of a chemical substance.
- The principle: Give you one or more active drugs against cancer cells. Many anticancer drugs (also known as anti-tumor drugs) have been developed, especially since the 1970s. These drugs work either by destroying cancer cells or by stopping their multiplication. Some of them are more active against one type of cancer than others.
- The goal: To eliminate cancer cells in the body wherever they are. Chemotherapy can be used to reduce the size of a tumor before surgery, to reduce the risk of recurrence after surgery or to treat secondary sites of the tumor.
- In practice: Most chemotherapy drugs come in a liquid form that is injected directly into a vein. They are administered intravenously during infusions.
To facilitate infusions, it is common to use a catheter. It is a device implanted under the skin (during a small surgical procedure). It is equipped with a pipe that is directly connected to a vein. There are also chemotherapy drugs that are taken orally (by mouth). In some cases, chemotherapy may be administered intramuscularly or directly into the tumor or into a cavity in the body where cancer cells have developed or by oral route. Treatment with chemotherapy may include one or more drugs.
The choice of the drug(s) depends in particular on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease and the general condition of the person. The treatment is administered over cycles (or cures) over one or more days. When chemotherapy is administered intravenously, it is usually necessary to go to the hospital for infusions. Oral chemotherapy drugs are taken at home.
After each cycle, a rest period is provided, allowing the body to recover. It is generally accompanied by undesirable effects, which are known, their intensity may vary and their management is well defined.
Regular consultations allow the oncologist to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and to ensure that the organism supports it as well as possible. The duration of chemotherapy depends on its efficacy and tolerance. It is usually several months.