How Does Chemotherapy Work
Chemotherapy works by attacking fast-growing cells in your body, including cancer cells. There are many different types of chemotherapy your medical oncologist will talk to you about whats most suitable for you. Sometimes more than one type of treatment may be effective for you, and you may be asked to decide which one to have. Your medical oncologist can tell you about the pros and cons of each.
Some questions you might like to ask include:
- What are the possible side effects of each treatment?
- How long is the course of each treatment?
- How will the treatment fit in with my lifestyle and personal circumstances?
Some chemotherapy drugs are given in tablet form, however, most are administered intravenously . As a result, it is useful to drink plenty of fluids, relax and keep your hands and arms warm, as this can help the nurse or doctor find your veins.
Effects On Your Digestive System
Chemotherapy can affect your digestive system in different ways. Some people get constipated, other people have diarrhoea. Your hospital will have its own guidelines, but if you have four or more episodes of diarrhoea within 24 hours contact you GP or treatment team. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Some chemotherapy drugs can make indigestion more likely. Some may also cause heartburn, which is a burning feeling in the lower chest.
Let your chemotherapy team know if you have any of these side effects. They can prescribe medication to help and can give you information about diet. You can also be referred to a dietitian if necessary.
Chemotherapy Regimens For Early
At some point, your medical oncologist will recommend a chemotherapy plan for you. Also called a chemotherapy regimen, the plan will have important details about your treatment, including:
- which drugs youre receiving
- the order in which you receive them
- the amount of each drug
- how often and how long you will need chemotherapy
Most women with early-stage breast cancer receive chemotherapy for approximately three to six months. Theres time in between treatments to allow your body to recover. If you are receiving targeted therapy for early HER2-positive breast cancer, treatment could last up to a year.
For some people, doctors may recommend a dose-dense chemotherapy regimen. Dose-dense chemotherapy means there is less time between treatments. You will not need to have a larger dose of chemotherapy.
Research has shown that dose-dense chemotherapy can improve survival and lower the risk of the breast cancer coming back compared to a traditional chemotherapy schedule. Dose-dense chemotherapy does not result in more side effects.
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New Study Results On Predicting Treatment Response For Breast Cancer Patients
New findings from a landmark study indicate there may be a way to predict treatment response in breast cancer patients even before treatment begins. The study results led by Susan G. Komen Brinker Award winner Carlos Caldas, M.D., FMedSCi, will be presented for the first time at the 2021 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium held on December 7-10.
During the Brinker Award lecture, where Dr. Caldas will be presenting the new findings, he also will be presented with the 2021 Susan G. Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science, which is Komen’s highest scientific honor. Dr. Caldas is being honored because of his significant contributions in the field of breast cancer genomics, as well as his leadership and work on breastcancer functional genomics.
The pioneering research study is slated to be published in the Dec. 7 issue of Nature.
Led by Dr. Caldas, a research team from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital analyzed breast cancer biopsies acquired at diagnosis, prior to the start of therapy, with the idea that by profiling different components of the abnormal tumor tissue, a test could be developed that could predict response to treatment.
What they discovered was remarkableThe pre-treatment cancer landscape was highly predictive of response to therapy, and the performance of the predictor they developed significantly improved as clinical, tissue architecture and molecular data were added.
St Chemo For Breast Cancer
Hi everyone, I just wanted to write an update on my experience so far. I had my 1st chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer on the 26th November so I’m 12 days in and iv been surprised so far at how ok iv been. The 1st 3 days I had steroids which I think gave me a boost I managed to get my Xmas shopping finished! After that I gradually became more tired maybe taking naps through the day an going to bed earlier. I kept on with my anti sickness tablets for maybe a week or so which have done the job an kept sickness at bay. Iv been able to do the school run each day aswell as get out to shops. Iv felt a lot better than I expected I just haven’t been as full on busy iv made sure iv rested. So for anyone out there that’s about to start chemo an that is feeling as scared as I was I hope iv eased your mind slightly. Xx
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What If I Have Side Effects
You will see your doctor regularly while you are having treatment. Before each dose of chemotherapy you will have a blood test and a consultation with your medical oncologist to review your treatment. You will be able to discuss any side effects you have experienced and to ask questions. If necessary, the treatment can be adjusted for the next cycle.
Warnings For Other Groups
For pregnant women: Cyclophosphamide is a category D pregnancy drug. That means two things:
This drug can harm a pregnancy. Women shouldnt become pregnant while taking this drug. If youre a woman, be sure to use effective birth control during treatment and for up to one year after you stop taking this drug. If youre a man and your partner could become pregnant, be sure to use a condom during your treatment and for at least four months after your treatment ends.
Tell your doctor if youre pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Cyclophosphamide should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
For women who are breastfeeding: Cyclophosphamide passes into breast milk and can cause serious effects in a child who is breastfed. You and your doctor may need to decide if youll take cyclophosphamide or breastfeed.
For seniors: As you age, your organs may not work as well as they did when you were younger. More of this drug may stay in your body and put you at risk for severe side effects.
For children: Children who receive cyclophosphamide have a higher risk for:
- ovarian fibrosis in girls who havent reached puberty yet
- low sperm counts, immobile sperm, or smaller testes in boys who havent gone through puberty yet
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What Are The Most Common Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Drugs
Chemotherapy, a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells in the body, is often used to treat breast cancer. There are numerous chemotherapy drugs which doctors might prescribe alone or in combination for patients with breast cancer. The most common breast cancer chemotherapy drugs are anthracyclines, taxanes, and cyclophosphamide.
Patients with breast cancer commonly receive chemotherapy as an adjuvant therapy. Chemotherapy is given in addition to other treatments, such as surgery, to decrease the risk of the cancer returning. The age and health of the patient, the type of tumor, and whether the cancer has invaded the lymph nodes are common factors considered by oncologists in determining the appropriate breast cancer chemotherapy drugs.
Anthracyclines are a class of chemotherapy drugs derived from Streptomyces bacteria. This class of drugs includes doxorubicin, epirubicin, and liposomal doxorubicin. Anthracyclines work by blocking DNA production within cells, thereby preventing the replication of cells. The drug cannot distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells. Anthracycline drugs have a greater negative effect on cancerous cells than normal cells because of cancel cells divide more rapidly.
When And How Often To See A Doctor
A doctor will usually establish a visit schedule to assess side effects and progress. They may use imaging scans of the tumor to determine whether chemo is working.
It is very important to go to these visits because a doctor might change the chemo drug or dosage. In some cases, they might even recommend a different treatment.
A person should call their doctor if they:
- experience chemo side effects that interfere with daily life
- feel very sick
- miss a dose or take the incorrect dose
- have any questions about their care
Anyone who has a significant reaction right after taking chemo should seek emergency medical help immediately. The reaction could include developing a rash, having trouble breathing, or experiencing pain.
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What To Expect After Chemo
Once youâre home, you need to take care of yourself and take steps to manage chemo side effects. These include:
- Take medications the doctor prescribed for side effects.
- Stay away from anyone with a cold or infection — chemo makes it harder for your body to fight germs.
- Drink lots of fluids for the first 8 hours to move the medicine through your body.
- Manage bodily fluids and waste that may have traces of chemo. Usually, this means flushing the toilet twice.
Youâll see your doctor every 4 to 6 months for the next 5 years after treatment ends.
What Are The Side Effects
Chemotherapy is sometimes referred to as a systemic treatment, because it affects all parts of your body. Unfortunately, it can attack fast-growing healthy cells, such as hair follicles, as well as cancer cells. This causes unwanted side effects such as fatigue, nausea and hair loss. Your medical oncologist or oncology nurse can give you information on ways to manage these side effects.
If side effects are affecting your daily life, its important to discuss them with a member of your medical team. In some instances, your oncologist may be able to change your chemotherapy drug to one that has fewer side effects.
Chemotherapy drugs all work differently and have different side effects. Not all women will suffer side effects from chemotherapy. If you dont experience side effects, it does not mean that the drugs aren’t working.
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Menstrual Changes And Fertility Issues
For younger women, changes in menstrual periods are a common side effect of chemo. Premature menopause and infertility may occur and may be permanent. Some chemo drugs are more likely to cause this than others. The older a woman is when she gets chemotherapy, the more likely it is that she will go through menopause or become infertile as a result. When this happens, there is an increased risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. There are medicines that can treat or help prevent bone loss.
Even if your periods have stopped while you are on chemo, you may still be able to get pregnant. Getting pregnant while on chemo could lead to birth defects and interfere with treatment. If you are pre-menopausal before treatment and are sexually active, its important to discuss using birth control with your doctor. It is not a good idea for women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer to take hormonal birth control , so its important to talk with both your oncologist and your gynecologist about what options would be best in your case. Women who have finished treatment can safely go on to have children, but it’s not safe to get pregnant while on treatment.
If you think you might want to have children after being treated for breast cancer, talk with your doctorbeforeyou start treatment. Learn more from our section on fertility concerns for women with cancer.
Local Breast Cancer Treatments
Local treatments are directed at the original tumor location.
Surgery removes a tumor or, in the case of reconstruction, repairs the breast. For an early stage breast cancer diagnosis, the two main surgical choices are mastectomy or lumpectomy. A decision on the type of surgery to select is very personal.
Mastectomy: removal of the entire breast. This typically includes the nipple and areola. But not the skin of the breast. Nipple-sparing mastectomies – in which the nipple and areola are not removed – may be an option in certain patients. A prophylactic mastectomy is the removal of a healthy breast. It may be recommended if you have a BRCA1 or 2 mutation. If desired, a breast can be rebuilt with breast reconstruction surgery.
Lumpectomy : removal of the tumor and surrounding area of tissue only. The rest of the breast is left intact. If you choose a lumpectomy, you will also need radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays directed at the breast, surrounding tissue and lymph nodes to kill any cancer cells that may have remained behind after surgery. You will also be treated with radiation if you have lymph node removal or a lumpectomy. Radiation therapy is typically administered daily for a period of days . It only lasts a few minutes. It is not safe during pregnancy.
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Breast Cancer: Types Of Treatment
Have questions about breast cancer? Ask here.
ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about the different types of treatments doctors use for people with breast cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.
This section explains the types of treatments that are the standard of care for early-stage and locally advanced breast cancer. Standard of care means the best treatments known. When making treatment plan decisions, you are strongly encouraged to consider clinical trials as an option. A clinical trial is a research study that tests a new approach to treatment. Doctors want to learn whether the new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the standard treatment. Clinical trials can test a new drug and how often it should be given, a new combination of standard treatments, or new doses of standard drugs or other treatments. Some clinical trials also test giving less treatment than what is usually done as the standard of care. Clinical trials are an option to consider for treatment and care for all stages of cancer. Your doctor can help you consider all your treatment options. Learn more about clinical trials in the About Clinical Trials and Latest Research sections of this guide.
How Long Will I Have Chemotherapy For
Chemotherapy is commonly given as a series of treatments with a break between each treatment to give your body time to recover from any short-term side effects. The treatment and period of time before the next one starts is called a cycle.
You may have treatment weekly or every two or three weeks.
You may have one drug or a combination of two or three drugs. The exact type and dose of chemotherapy will be tailored to your individual situation. The drugs used, the dose, how often theyre given and the number of cycles may be called your chemotherapy regime or regimen.
The length of time that you have chemotherapy will depend on your individual situation. Your treatment team will discuss this with you.
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Where You Have Chemotherapy
You usually have treatment into your bloodstream at the cancer day clinic. You might sit in a chair for a few hours so its a good idea to take things in to do. For example, newspapers, books or electronic devices can all help to pass the time. You can usually bring a friend or family member with you.
You have some types of chemotherapy over several days. You might be able to have some drugs through a small portable pump that you take home.
For some types of chemotherapy you have to stay in a hospital ward. This could be overnight or for a couple of days.
Clare Disney : Hello, my name is Clare and this is a cancer day unit.
So when you arrive and youve reported into with the receptionist, one of the nurses will call you through when your treatment is ready, sit you down and go through all the treatment with you.
Morning, Iris. My name is Clare. I am the nurse who is going to be looking after you today. Were going to start by putting a cannula in the back of your hand and giving you some anti sickness medication. And then I am going to come back to you and talk through the chemotherapy with you and the possible side effects you may experience throughout your treatment. Is that okay?
Each chemotherapy is made up for each individual patient, depending on the type of cancer they have and where it is and depending their height, weight and blood results.
When Is Chemotherapy Used
Not all women with breast cancer will need chemo, but there are several situations in which chemo may be recommended:
- After surgery : Adjuvant chemo might be given to try to kill any cancer cells that might have been left behind or have spread but can’t be seen, even on imaging tests. If these cells were allowed to grow, they could form new tumors in other places in the body. Adjuvant chemo can lower the risk of breast cancer coming back.
- Before surgery : Neoadjuvant chemo might be given to try to shrink the tumor so it can be removed with less extensive surgery. Because of this, neoadjuvant chemo is often used to treat cancers that are too big to be removed by surgery when first diagnosed . Also, by giving chemo before the tumor is removed, doctors can see how the cancer responds to it. If the first set of chemo drugs doesnt shrink the tumor, your doctor will know that other drugs are needed. It should also kill any cancer cells that have spread but can’t be seen. Just like adjuvant chemo, neoadjuvant chemo can lower the risk of breast cancer coming back.
For certain types of breast cancer, if there are tumor cells still found at the time of surgery , you may be offered more chemotherapy after surgery to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back .
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