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Patients facing chemotherapy often go through a difficult time. The treatment is associated with multiple side effects and not always brings benefits. The article attempts to answer a number of common questions in regards to cancer chemotherapy.

Cancer chemotherapy is known to be a harsh treatment. Side effects are sometimes so strong that patients refuse to continue the treatment. As a result, many patients facing chemotherapy chose not to take this treatment option altogether, thus further jeopardizing their chances of surviving cancer.

Despite its side effects, chemotherapy is known to be beneficial in the long terms.

Large statistical evidences universally point out to the fact that people who underwent this treatment live longer than those who decided to opt out. Having said that, we have to keep in mind that statistical data are always averaged. This means that while some people will most certainly gain from chemotherapy, others might receive little or no benefits.There is no single fir-for-all answer to the question whether to go for chemotherapy or not.

The outcome of treatment depends on the particular type of cancer, its stage, general health and age of patient.

Over the decades, doctors have accumulated significant amount of data in regards to the success and failure of chemotherapy. These days, for each particular condition you can receive from a doctor a very reasonable estimate of individual gains in terms of survival that you can get from the treatment. Sometimes the projected benefits are small, and then you need to decide whether this gain is worth the troubles. Both patients and their relatives always have plenty of questions in regards to chemotherapeutic treatment. Below are some of the most common questions the doctors usually need to answer.

Q: What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that makes use of powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells.

Q: How does chemotherapy work?

Generally speaking, the goal of chemotherapy is to kill cancer cells. Cancer cells grow and divide quickly and chemo substances work by stopping or slowing the growth of these cells, by acting at a specific point in their life cycle. Some chemotherapy drugs work by damaging DNA, others by preventing cells from further dividing and others disrupt critical cellular functions that prevent the cell from living.

There are more than 100 chemo drugs that can be combined in a multiple ways, working together to kill cancer cells more rapidly or more effectively.

Q: Why is chemotherapy recommended for patients with cancer?

Cancer cells divide rapidly and chemotherapy acts preferably on rapidly-dividing cells – this is the most important reason why chemo drugs are indicated for the treatment of cancer. However, the goals of chemotherapy might be different from person to person, depending on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. Chemotherapy can: 

  • Cure the cancer
  • Control cancer, preventing it from spreading, slowing its growth or destroying the cells that have gone to other parts of the body
  • Relieve symptoms caused by cancer, by shrinking tumors that are causing pain or pressuring organs
In many cases, chemotherapy is used in addition to surgery and radiation therapy, as the combined effects of these procedures allow for better final results.
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