Chemotherapy involves administering powerful drugs to attack cancer cells and prevent them from reproducing. Unfortunately, chemotherapy drugs kill not only cancer cells in the body but also some normal sensitive cells and those that multiply rapidly. The therapy can be adjuvant chemotherapy; in this case, it is used after removing the tumor surgically. Sometimes chemotherapy is given before surgery to reduce the volume of the tumor and thus facilitate the surgery and enhances chances of survival; this is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is administered at home, in hospitals, or in oncology infusion services. A complete chemotherapy includes several sessions. Although some chemotherapy drugs come in the form of tablets or capsules to take by mouth, the majority of chemotherapeutic drugs are taken by injection. Injections last from several minutes to hours. In general, the first sessions are given slower to avoid possible hypersensitivity reaction to the drug. The sessions are interspersed with periods of rest to allow the body to recover.
In the treatment of breast cancer, different cancer drugs and various dosages, timing and frequency of cycles can be used. These vary depending on the type of tumor and its stage of development. Your age and health status in general are also considered in the choice and dosages of the medications. Throughout and even after the chemotherapy, you will be closely monitored to prevent or detect complications in their genesis.
At first, chemotherapy drugs approved for the adjuvant treatment of breast cancer was a combination of cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), methotrexate (Trexall, Rheumatrex) and 5-flurouracil (5-FU). In recent years, however, other drugs are added up in the treatment of breast cancer. Among which, there are Adriamycin (doxorubicin) and Taxol (paclitaxel); they seem to bring good results in the fight against breast cancer.
Whatever the protocols used, chemotherapy drugs always cause side effects, which may be severe or insignificant depending on the reaction of your body: hair loss, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased red blood cells, decreased white blood cells which increases the risk of infections, etc. In advanced cases, vital organs may be affected and lead to neurological and visual disorders, as well as skin, liver and heart problems.