Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. As cancer cells are constantly changing, the chemotherapy finds all the cells in your body that change quickly, and destroys them.
Unfortunately chemotherapy cannot tell the difference between your good cells that constantly change, and the cancer cells. Examples of you good healthy cells that constantly change is your blood cells (for example your white cells that fight infection), your hair follicles and the lining of your mouth. This leads to side effects such as increased risk of infection, hair loss and feeling sick.
Unlike cancer cells these cells usually repair themselves. Most side effects improve when treatment is finished.
A course of chemotherapy consists of a number of treatments, which are given at regular intervals; this allows normal cells time to recover. Your individual treatment plan will be discussed with you.
Everyone reacts differently to chemotherapy and some people may have no side effects at all. The side effects you may experience with your chemotherapy treatment plan will be discussed with you. For example, not all chemotherapy drugs cause sickness or hair loss, so do check what is relevant for you.
We can offer help for most side effects, so please tell your doctor or nurse if you feel any different from normal.
Remember: most of the side effects of chemotherapy are temporary and will disappear after your treatment has finished.
Chemotherapy can be given as a main treatment or after other treatments to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Or, you may have it to shrink a cancer before surgery or radiotherapy. It is sometimes used at the same time as radiotherapy (chemo radiation). Chemotherapy is also given to control and to relieve symptoms.
The chemotherapy you have will depend on different things, such as the cancer type, the risk of it coming back, or whether it has spread. Some people have tests during treatment to check if the cancer is responding to chemotherapy.
Why is chemotherapy given?
Many types of cancer can be treated with chemotherapy. The aim of the treatment will depend on the type of cancer you have and how advanced it is.
Reasons you might have treatment are
To cure cancer - chemotherapy is given to destroy all the cancer cells.
To reduce the possibility of cancer coming back -chemotherapy may also be given to destroy any cancer cells that may be present in your body, but that are too small to detect.
To relieve symptoms - without curing your cancer.
Where will I receive my treatment?
You will receive your treatment in the oncology day ward on Our Lady of Knock unit.
This is on the 3rd floor.
Some chemotherapy is given over a short time period and so may be administered as a day case treatment, either all in one day, or on several days