WHAT IS CHEMOTHERAPY?
Chemotherapy treatment may be a single drug or a combination of drugs. Depending on the treatment goal, it can be used to keep cancer from spreading, slow its growth, and relieve symptoms such as pain. Treatment is given in cycles determined by the type of cancer, the stage of cancer and the types of drugs that are given. Previous research determines the duration of therapy. We are united in healing with The US Oncology Network, and our team of experienced oncologists will recommend a treatment plan that will work best for your with the best possible outcomes.
For patients whose chemo will be administered intravenously in our cancer treatment centers, we offer spacious areas bathed in natural light from which you can look on tranquil surroundings like the Arapahoe Glacier basin in Boulder, the Healing Garden in Lakewood, or Hale Park at Rose. The spacious treatment bays include reclining chairs, internet access and other amenities. At many locations private chemotherapy rooms are also available. You are welcome to bring guests with you over the age of 16 to keep you company while you are receiving your treatment.
Chemotherapy may be administered in combination with the newest targeted therapies, including monoclonal antibodies and anti-angiogenesis inhibitors. Traditional chemotherapy is designed to destroy or change cancer cells by interfering with their ability to grow, divide or repair. In order to do this the drug damages both normal and cancerous cells. Recent genetic advances have made it possible to identify differences between a patient’s cancer cells and their normal cells to create a targeted therapy that will only attack the cancer cells. Because the normal cells have been left undamaged, patients experience fewer side effects.
Each type of targeted therapy works differently. Monoclonal antibodies “attach” themselves to receptors that are on the outside of the cancer cells so they cannot grow. Anti-angiogenesis drugs “suffocate” the inner part of the cells by targeting the blood vessels that supply oxygen to them. Research continues to be done to determine exactly which cancers these targeted therapies are most effective against and if there are other therapies yet to be identified. At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers access to clinical trials is part of our comprehensive service offering. You may be eligible to participate in one of our clinical trials and get early access to an up-and-coming therapy, so make sure to ask your oncologist about whether you qualify for a trial.
Chemotherapy is frequently combined with other treatments. When it is given after surgery or radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer in the body, it is called adjuvant therapy. Adjuvant chemotherapy is common in cancers of the breast and colon. Neoadjuvant therapy is when chemotherapy is given before surgery or radiation to help shrink a tumor.
We realize that you may have many questions before starting your chemotherapy and we’re here to make sure you have the answers you need before beginning. Feel free to bring a list of your questions to your appointments. Our goal is to ease your mind about how the treatment will work and to assure you that we will be there for you every step of the way.
Cancer cells divide rapidly but so do normal cells. When treatments are focused primarily on killing rapidly dividing cells, they damage normal cells as well. It is this damage to the normal cells that causes side effects. Side effects depend on how your body reacts to the type and dose of chemotherapy. Thanks to targeted treatment and better control of side effects, chemotherapy is less toxic than it used to be. The most common side effect is fatigue followed by nausea. Hair loss is also common. Talk to your doctor or nurse about medicines they can prescribe that may help prevent some side effects such as nausea. Our social workers can also recommend support programs to help you cope while you are undergoing treatment.
As normal cells repair themselves once chemotherapy is over, most side effects typically go away but again the timeline will depend on your overall health and the kind of chemotherapy you have been getting.