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 non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Chemotherapy may be used to fight all forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including aggressive and non-aggressive forms, and may also be used to help prevent the disease from recurring. Chemotherapy for NHL often consists of giving several drugs together in a set regimen. A common form used specifically to treat diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is CHOP chemotherapy, which is a combination of four chemotherapy drugs.
Depending on the regimen, chemotherapy may be administered in pill form, as an injection, or intravenously. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other NHL treatments, such as immunotherapy and radiation therapy.
Potential side effects of chemotherapy for NHL
While chemotherapy destroys rapidly dividing cancer cells, it can also affect normal fast-growing cells, such as those in the hair, mouth, GI tract and bone marrow. Chemotherapy for NHL may also temporarily interfere with the ability of the bone marrow to produce adequate numbers of blood cells, resulting in various side effects.
Depending on the types of drugs administered and your individual response, some common side effects of chemotherapy for NHL include:
- Cardiotoxicity (heart muscle damage)
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Neutropenia (low white blood cell count)
- Taste changes
- Neuropathy (pain, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet)
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
- Sexual dysfunction
Helping you manage chemotherapy-related side effects
We will use a combination of approaches to prevent or manage chemotherapy-related side effects throughout your NHL treatment. For example, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics as a preventive measure before you begin treatment.
Since chemotherapy can temporarily lower your blood cell counts, we’ll do routine blood tests to check the levels of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. If your counts are low, we may modify your treatment or use certain drugs to help stimulate blood cell production. You may also be given a transfusion to restore your counts to a normal level.
Additionally, therapies like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, pain management and oncology rehabilitation can all help to reduce chemotherapy-related side effects and keep you strong so you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy most. Mind-body medicine and spiritual support can improve your emotional well-being so you feel better throughout treatment.