What is Chemotherapy?
The term chemotherapy refers to an assortment of drugs designed to interrupt the progression of cancer and destroy cancerous cells while preserving healthy ones. Some drugs work by preventing cancer cells from growing and dividing. In contrast, others are “cytotoxic,” meaning that they attach cancer cells themselves.
Medical professionals refer to chemotherapy is a form of systemic treatment, like immunotherapy. Unlike targeted cancer therapy, radiation, or surgery, it exerts its effects across the entire body.
This property of these drugs offers both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it means that patients can target metastasized tumors all over the body. On the downside, it can lead to side effects in some patients, such as fatigue, dry mouth, anemia, hair loss, and insomnia (among others).
Chemotherapy and Cancer
Chemotherapy drugs generally have three independent goals. The first is to ease cancer symptoms in patients with advanced disease. Clinicians call this type of intervention “palliative chemotherapy.” In this case, the goal is to reduce suffering in a patient, rather than cure the disease outright.
The second class of chemotherapy drugs aims to shrink tumors and stop cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. For more benign forms of the disease, practitioners at Cochise Oncology will often opt to manage the condition like it is a chronic disease over the long-term, instead of attempting to excise it entirely from the body. Decisions like these are made on a cost-benefit basis. Often, it is better for the patient’s overall survival chances to go down the control route, instead of shooting for a full-blown cure.
The third and final class of drugs attempts to rid the body of cancer entirely. Doctors rarely speak of a “cure” per se, but they do classify some drugs as having “curative intent.” This form of chemo destroys existing cancer and attempts to prevent it from coming back in the future.