A to Z Basic information about cancer and chemotherapy side effects

Chemotherapy is one of the most common methods used in cancer treatment and is used to destroy or control unwanted cancerous cells; The word means ‘medicine’ treatment. Alright chemotherapy To what extent is the treatment method successful with respect to cancer types? Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled reproduction of body cells. Healthy body cells have the ability to divide. But these abilities are also limited; they are not infinitely divisible. Throughout its life, every cell has a certain number of divisibility. A healthy cell knows that it will divide where and as much as necessary. On the other hand, cancer cells divide and multiply uncontrollably. Cancer cells accumulate to form tumors (masses), tumors can compress, infiltrate or destroy normal tissues.

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Incidence of cancer in Turkey

Cancer is the leading cause of death all over the world, right after cardiovascular diseases. In Western societies, one of 250-350 people is diagnosed with cancer every year. In the group over the age of 60, the incidence of cancer increases even more, reaching around 4-5 per 300 people. Although precise statistics are not available in our country, its incidence is estimated to be half of this.

What is chemotherapy? How is it applied in cancer treatment, what are the side effects?

What are the causes of cancer?

There are many reasons for the formation of cancer. In addition to familial and genetic factors, there are also causes arising from the person’s lifestyle and external factors. Smoking and alcohol use, being in the sun for a long time, bad eating habits can be counted in this group.

There are also external factors that cause cancer. These; Factors such as exposure to high doses of x-rays, chemicals, viruses (Hepatitis B, C, human papilloma virus..), air pollution, exposure to radiation may cause cancer formation.

What are the symptoms of cancer?

• Abnormal bleeding from the uterus or anus
• Swelling in the breast or body
• Non-healing wounds,
• Painless/painless sores in the mouth that do not heal,
• White or red plaques, masses or hardness in the mouth and lips,
• Prolonged hoarseness and cough
• Bloody, foul-smelling sputum,
• Difficulty swallowing or indigestion
• Growth, discoloration and bleeding in moles or warts
• defecation changes
• Bleeding urine
• Moles that change color, shape and size, bleed quickly or ulcerate,
• Palpable mass in the chest,
• Thickening, collapse or retraction on the breast skin,
• Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple,
• Prolonged diarrhea or constipation,
• Unexplained weight loss
• Irregular menstruation, excessive bleeding or prolonged bleeding,
• Bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause,
• Bleeding after sexual intercourse,
• More than normal vaginal discharge,
• Prolonged and unexplained fevers,
When these symptoms occur, a doctor should be consulted without wasting time.

Precautions to be taken for nausea during chemotherapy treatment

What are the most common types of cancer?

• Breast cancer
• Lung cancer
• Prostate cancer
• Esophageal, stomach and intestinal cancers
• Head and neck cancers
• Ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy plays an important role in the treatment of cancer. Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs. With chemotherapy, the cancer cell is tried to be killed and its growth is slowed down. The drugs used are chemotherapeutics known as cancer drugs (anticancer drug, antineoplastic drug). In treatment, surgery and radiotherapy are methods that perform local treatment functions, followed by systemic treatments such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Chemotherapy is a specialty because it is performed with cytotoxic drugs. It should be done in effective doses but by protecting the patient from side effects. The drugs are distributed throughout the body through the blood, preventing the proliferation of uncontrolled growing tumor cells.

What is the purpose of chemotherapy?

  • Treating Cancer Disease,
  • To prevent its transfer and spread to other organs,
  • slowing the growth of the tumor,
  • If it has spread to other places, to destroy these cells,
  • To reduce or eliminate the discomforts and complaints caused by cancer.

Who is chemotherapy administered by?

The branch of science dealing with chemotherapy is Medical Oncology, and the physician working in this field is Medical Oncologist. A Medical Oncologist is an Internal Medicine Specialist specializing in tumor treatment.

Types of chemotherapy

  • Neo-Adjuvant Chemotherapy; It is given to reduce the mass and facilitate surgery in patients whose tumor is limited and surgical removal is possible.
  • Adjuvant Chemotherapy Treatment; It is a treatment method applied to prevent local recurrence or to prevent the spread of the disease by evaluating the risk of recurrence after the patient has been operated on.
  • Palliative Chemotherapy Treatment; It is given to regress or control the tumor in disseminated disease or to relieve tumor-related symptoms.

Proper nutrition during chemotherapy increases success in treatment

How is chemotherapy administered?

There are different types of application of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs are often given through a vein (intravenous). And also; There are also oral (oral) tablets and body cavities (intramuscular, subcutaneous injection, intra-abdominal and intrapulmonary application) methods.

side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treatment is a treatment that affects tumor cells. The side effects of new drugs have been greatly reduced. However, normal cells may also be affected in this process. Common side effects of chemotherapy nausea, vomiting, weakness, loss of appetite, hair loss, diarrhea or constipation, widespread body aches, numbness in hands and feet, sores in the mouth, decreased hearing and sense of taste, bone marrow suppression; weakness due to low red blood (hemoglobin and hematocrit), white blood (leukocyte and neutrophil) risk of infection due to falling, thrombocyte bleeding due to falling.

Not all of these side effects occur at the same time. More than fifty drugs used in chemotherapy have their own side effects. Stage of the disease, location, age, gender of the patient; It can be experienced in different intensities according to other accompanying disease tables and body characteristics. The patient should get detailed information about the side effects of the drug to be taken from his doctor.

Can chemotherapy-related side effects be prevented?

Chemotherapy-related side effects usually begin within 24-48 hours and usually decrease or disappear within 7-10 days. Some side effects may be prolonged. Drugs that suppress the nausea and vomiting center of the brain are used for nausea and vomiting. Oral nutrition products are used in patients who develop anorexia and weight loss. In some drugs, the hair starts to fall out after the first cure and grows back a few months after the end of chemotherapy. If possible, hair should be cut short before treatment.

Symptomatic patients with low red blood are given red blood, patients with low yellow blood and bleeding are given yellow blood. Some groups of patients with low white blood and at risk of serious infection are given drugs that stimulate the bone marrow. If there is no fever in patients with low white blood (neutrophil <1000), oral antibiotic therapy is started as a preventative.

If fever develops in patients with very low white blood (neutrophil <500), this picture is called febrile neutropenia, and since the risk of death is high, they should be hospitalized in isolation in a single room, if possible, in order to determine the source of the infection and to administer intravenous broad-acting antibiotics.

What should be the right nutritional support during cancer treatment?

A general deterioration may develop after chemotherapy. It should be noted that the side effects that may occur during chemotherapy are temporary. The patient’s being calm, resilient, hopeful and worry-free during this process strengthens the immune system. Having a strong immune system is very important both in healing and in feeling less side effects.

Where should tumor treatment be done?

Tumor treatment is a team effort and must be applied in centers where this team is present. In this team, there should be a Specialist Surgeon dealing with tumor surgery, a Radiation Oncologist dealing with Radiation Therapy (radiotherapy), a Pathologist, a Radiologist, a Nurse who knows the application of Chemotherapy, and a Medical Oncologist dealing with Chemotherapy and patient care.

In cancer treatment, where expertise, experience and technology are of vital importance, a “Tumor Council” should be formed, and different branches of medicine should make their plans for the treatment to be made together.

Frequently asked Questions

Can It Be Worked During Chemotherapy?

Many people can lead a normal life while receiving chemotherapy. He can go to work as long as the doctor allows and provided that the treatment plan is not disrupted. The important thing is to reduce the work and activities done when the patient feels tired. In some patients, it may not be possible to continue working because of the type and extent of the disease, the intensity of the treatment and its side effects.

For example, it may be inconvenient to drive because the anti-nausea drugs given immediately after chemotherapy cause drowsiness. Talk to your doctor about your profession and work pattern. If your job does not cause any problems for you during the treatment you will receive, you can continue to work with short rest periods. Maintain your daily life as much as possible during chemotherapy.

Can You Take a Vacation During Chemotherapy?

A vacation can be made without interrupting the treatment schedule. The doctor should be informed about the place and type of vacation and suggestions should be taken. For example, some medications can have side effects on the skin, and contact with sunlight can increase skin lesions. Before going on vacation, blood count should be done and if leukocyte and thrombocyte values ​​are appropriate, swim in the pool or the sea.

What are the Effects of Chemotherapy on Sexuality?

In men, it can lead to temporary or, rarely, permanent infertility by decreasing the sperm count. If patients who are seen in reproductive age and given chemotherapy such as testicular tumors want to have children, their sperm can be frozen in sperm banks before treatment and they can have children after treatment. Menstrual irregularities may be experienced in women, menstrual bleeding can be interrupted mostly temporarily or sometimes permanently, leading to infertility. Hot flashes similar to menopause, sweating and vaginal dryness can be seen.

Is It Risky to Get Pregnant During or After Chemotherapy?

If pregnant during chemotherapy, the risk of giving birth to a disabled child is high. While receiving chemotherapy, necessary birth control methods should be used against the possibility of becoming pregnant. If the hormonal status returns to normal after chemotherapy and the treatment will not be continued, it is possible to become pregnant under the control of a doctor. If postpartum chemotherapy is required or if the disease is diagnosed and chemotherapy will be given during breastfeeding, the mother should definitely not breastfeed the baby.

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