Chemotherapy

Selected Cancer treatments and their medical experts, specialists and clinics in Switzerland - Ticino

Chemotherapy inhibits or prevents the cancer cells from replicating. The side effects of chemotherapy result from the drugs also attacking healthy cells, such as roots of the hair, mucous membranes and blood-forming bone marrow.

Advantages

Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly. Depending on your type of cancer and how advanced it is, chemotherapy can:

  • Cure cancer - when chemotherapy destroys cancer cells to the point that your doctor can no longer detect them in your body and they will not grow back.
  • Control cancer - when chemotherapy keeps cancer from spreading, slows its growth, or destroys cancer cells that have spread to other parts of your body.
  • Ease cancer symptoms (also called palliative care) - when chemotherapy shrinks tumors that are causing pain or pressure.

Indications

Sometimes, chemotherapy is used as the only cancer treatment. But more often, you will get chemotherapy along with surgery, radiation therapy, or biological therapy. Chemotherapy can:

  • Make a tumor smaller before surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Destroy cancer cells that may remain after surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Help radiation therapy and biological therapy work better.
  • Destroy cancer cells that have come back (recurrent cancer) or spread to other parts of your body (metastatic cancer).

Procedure

What to expect

Your specialist in Medical Oncology will choose a chemo regimen for you based on your cancer type and stage as well as your health. Depending on the type of chemotherapy recommended, you may receive treatments in the doctor’s office, during a hospital stay, at home, or at an outpatient clinic. No matter where you go for chemotherapy, your doctor and nurse will watch for side effects and make any needed drug changes.

Preparation

You’ll have a blood test before your chemotherapy. To save time, your blood may be checked a day or two before chemotherapy. This can be done at the hospital where you’re having chemotherapy, or by your General Practicer, practice nurse or a hospital closer to home.

Duration

Treatment schedules for chemotherapy vary widely. How often and how long you get chemotherapy depends on:

  • Your type of cancer and how advanced it is
  • The goals of treatment (whether chemotherapy is used to cure your cancer, control its growth, or ease the symptoms)
  • The type of chemotherapy
  • How your body reacts to chemotherapy

You may receive chemotherapy in cycles. A cycle is a period of chemotherapy treatment followed by a period of rest. For instance, you might receive 1 week of chemotherapy followed by 3 weeks of rest. These 4 weeks make up one cycle. The rest period gives your body a chance to build new healthy cells.

Recommended behavior after treatment or therapy

When your treatment is finished, you may feel it’s time to get back to normal. However, this can sometimes be one of the hardest times to cope with. Recovery times vary, and no one can say for sure how long it should take to get over the treatment and its effects. The end of the visits to hospital for treatment can leave you feeling like you’re on your own.

Many people find that they feel very low and emotional at this time, when they had expected to be able to put the cancer and the treatment behind them. This may be the time when you need the most support. Support is available if you would like it.

Risks & complications

Your specialist in Medical Oncology will explain the side effects that your chemotherapy is likely to cause. Most side effects are short term and usually stop or gradually go away when chemotherapy is over. Although the side effects can be unpleasant, the benefits of chemotherapy usually outweigh this.

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