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 spinal cancer
Our medical oncologists treat primary and metastatic spinal cancer with an aggressive and creative approach, selecting spinal cancer chemotherapy drugs and delivery methods based on your individual needs.
Chemotherapy drugs may be administered orally in pill form, or injected into the vein. For some spinal tumors, drugs may be given directly into the cerebrospinal fluid. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other spinal cancer treatments, such as surgery and/or radiation therapy.
Addressing side effects of spinal cancer chemotherapy
Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cancer cells. Yet, some healthy cells in the body also divide rapidly, like those in the hair follicles, mouth, stomach and bone marrow. When the drugs damage these healthy cells, the following chemotherapy side effects may result:
- Hair loss
- Increased risk of infection (from low white blood cell counts)
- Fatigue (from low red blood cell counts)
- Easy bruising and bleeding (from low blood platelet counts)
Before chemotherapy begins, your care team will meet with you to answer your questions and talk about what you can expect from treatment, including how we’ll help you manage chemotherapy side effects. For example, your doctor may prescribe certain drugs before and during treatment to combat nausea or prevent infection. We’ll also do routine blood tests to monitor your blood cell counts. Your doctor may also prescribe steroids to help improve neurologic functioning and increase appetite.
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 maintain your quality of life as much as possible during treatment.