Chemotherapy: What Is It And What Its Side Effects Are?


One of the most common treatments when treating cancer is chemotherapy, a method that involves the use of different drugs that aim to reduce cancer cells and thus get the patient to recover his health and well-being. It is a complex treatment and it has a lot of health consequences, so then we want to find out what chemotherapy is and what its most outstanding side effects are.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the treatment used to treat cancer patients. But it is not a drug or a specific therapy, each patient has their individualized therapy, according to their needs and state of health. Chemotherapy is formed by the mixture of different medications known as antineoplastics or chemotherapeutic and that are used to eradicate cells that produce the cancer mutation.

The main problem with this therapy is that the drugs used with chemotherapy attack all cells: both those that are becoming malignant, as well as healthy ones. This produces the well-known side effects of this treatment that it produces a great weakness in patients and other sequelae that can vary depending on each patient.

With chemotherapy, what is sought is to eliminate cells when they are in the division phase; in this way, the progress of the disease is slowed down and its presence within the body is eliminated. Treatment manages to stop and kill the cell, something essential so that the patient can heal and recover.

Types of Chemotherapy

Different types of chemotherapy are used in patients suffering from cancer. As we have already commented, chemo is a therapy that involves different drugs and techniques that will always come previously recommended by a specialist doctor, therefore, depending on the treatment that is carried out, we are facing one type of method or another.

Depending on the purpose of the treatment, we find that there are these types of chemotherapy:

Adjuvant Chemotherapy

This is the treatment that is usually used when the main treatment to fight cancer is completed. Normally, you start with an operation and then follow treatment with this type of chemo that aims to reduce the tumor and remove it from the body.

Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy

On the other hand, this other type of chemotherapy is performed before surgery or the main treatment to which the patient is subjected. What is pursued with this technique is to reduce the tumor and achieve an optimal result when starting with the main treatment.

Induction or Conversion

If the tumor to be treated cannot be operated on, it is when this chemotherapy technique is used that aims to reduce its size and allow the surgeon to treat it.

Concomitant Radiochemotherapy

This type of chemo is used to make the effect of radiation more powerful and therefore more effective treatment to eliminate cancer.

Palliative Chemotherapy

Finally, in patients who cannot be operated on due to the appearance of metastases, this chemotherapy is committed to this chemotherapy, which, although not curative, helps to reduce the effects of cancer.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy

One of the main drawbacks of chemotherapy is that it is a method with a lot of side effects. Many patients complain more about the consequences of this treatment, than about the ailment of cancer itself; however, today it is still the most effective method of reducing tumors and slowing down the progress of the disease.

The most common side effects of chemotherapy are as follows:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Changes in the sense of taste
  • Anemia
  • Hair loss
  • More fragile and dark nails
  • Appearance of eczema on the skin, dryness, itching, etc.
  • It can cause infertility in women who are at the age of reproduction
  • The advancement of menopause, especially in adult women
  • Men may also experience infertility due to chemo

Effectiveness of Chemotherapy

Although the side effects of chemotherapy are very noticeable, the truth is that this treatment is highly effective and, therefore, today it remains the most widely used method among doctors around the world.

Above all, chemotherapy is effective when used to prevent the progression of the disease and thus slow the metastasis. In addition, some tumors can be treated with chemo: those found in the testicles or ovaries. And if you don’t eliminate them, you can reduce them and make them easier to operate and be treated surgically.

If you can no longer operate because of metastasis, chemotherapy is used to reduce the pain that cancer can cause in the patient. It also reduces the most common symptoms of the disease such as fever or lack of appetite.

Alternative Treatments To Chemotherapy

Although it is best known, there is not only chemotherapy to treat cancer. Other methods may be used and that, depending on the doctor’s criteria, can replace chemo.

Alternative treatments for the most common chemotherapy are as follows:

– Surgery. It is the first medical option used to remove the tumor. After the operation, it begins with some of these treatments that stop metastasis and cell mutation.

– Radiotherapy. It is the second best-known treatment after chemo. This is the use of electrons and gamma radiation to destroy the tumor or reduce its size.

– Targeted therapy. Treatment that is designed to treat molecular alterations in particular.

– Hormonotherapy. The most used and effective method for prostate or breast cancer.

– Immunotherapy. Method that stimulates the production of defenses and, therefore, that our body can fight the tumor internally.