What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs. These drugs are designed to interfere with and halt the growth of rapidly dividing cancer cells in the body. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), we work closely with our patients to meet your individual needs before, during and after chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is an important part of treatment for many of our patients. Our physicians use leading treatment protocols and practice evidence-based medicine. In some cases, we may use innovative delivery methods to treat advanced stage cancer.
We strive to find the right chemotherapy drug, or combination of drugs, for each person. We may use tests, such as tumor molecular profiling, to identify an effective drug combination for your disease and help you avoid unnecessary toxicity.
We also understand that chemotherapy can have unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and mouth sores. We will work with the rest of your care team to help you prevent or manage these side effects.
In addition, throughout your treatment, we will continually monitor the effectiveness of your chemotherapy regimen with physical exams, blood tests and imaging scans.
Chemotherapy medical animation
Video: Chemotherapy Medical AnimationMedical animation
Chemotherapy for multiple myeloma
Chemotherapy for multiple myeloma may consist of a single agent or a combination of drugs. Because each medication destroys tumor cells in different ways, giving several drugs together may make the cells more vulnerable to treatment. For patients with multiple myeloma, chemotherapy is typically given orally (by mouth, in pill form) or intravenously (injection into the vein).
A typical treatment regimen for multiple myeloma
Many multiple myeloma patients receive chemotherapy in combination with other drugs/treatments to fight the disease and prevent recurrence. A typical multiple myeloma treatment plan may include:
- Induction chemotherapy (a combination of drugs used to destroy as many myeloma cells as possible).
- Consolidation chemotherapy (high doses of chemotherapy to destroy any remaining myeloma cells) followed by a single or tandem stem cell transplant.
- Maintenance therapy (a less intensive course of chemotherapy to reduce the risk of recurrence).
Some examples of drugs we may use to treat multiple myeloma include: melphalan, bortezomib (e.g., Velcade®), thalidomide (e.g., Thalomid®), lenalidomide (e.g., Revlimid® ) and corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone, dexamethasone (Decadron®)).
Throughout your treatment, we will conduct routine blood tests and other diagnostic tests to check for myeloma cells and make modifications to your treatment plan as needed.
Managing the side effects of chemotherapy
While chemotherapy destroys rapidly-dividing cancer cells, it can affect normal fast-growing cells, such as those in the hair, mouth, GI tract and bone marrow. Chemotherapy for multiple myeloma can also temporarily interfere with the ability of the bone marrow to produce adequate numbers of blood cells, lowering blood cell counts and increasing the risk of infection.
The following are examples of how we help you manage side effects during your multiple myeloma chemotherapy treatment:
- Low blood cell counts: Your oncologist may use certain drugs to stimulate blood cell production or give you a transfusion to restore your counts to a normal level.
- Nausea: Your oncologist may prescribe medications and your naturopathic clinician may recommend natural therapies to ease nausea.
- Constipation: Your naturopath may recommend diet and lifestyle interventions, fiber supplements, stool softeners or other remedies to ease constipation
- Taste changes: Your dietitian will work with the hospital’s culinary team to find foods that appeal to you and that your body can tolerate.