Thursday, December 6, 2007

Chemotherapy for Breast cancer


Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy; this means it affects the whole body by going through the bloodstream. The purpose of chemotherapy and other systemic treatments is to get rid of any cancer cells that may have spread from where the cancer started to another part of the body.

Chemotherapy is effective against cancer cells because the drugs love to interfere with rapidly dividing cells. The side effects of chemotherapy come about because cancer cells aren't the only rapidly dividing cells in your body. The cells in your blood, mouth, intestinal tract, nose, nails, vagina, and hair are also undergoing constant, rapid division. This means that the chemotherapy is going to affect them, too.

Still, chemotherapy is much easier to tolerate today than even a few years ago. And for many women it's an important "insurance policy" against cancer recurrence. It's also important to remember that organs in which the cells do not divide rapidly, such as the liver and kidneys, are rarely affected by chemotherapy. And doctors and nurses will keep close track of side effects and can treat most of them to improve the way you feel.

In this section, you'll learn more about how chemotherapy works and the best ways to manage nausea, hair loss, and other chemotherapy side effects.

You'll also read about the different chemotherapy regimens and about deciding together with your medical oncologist which regimen would be best suited to you.

It's important to remember that every woman's ideal treatment plan is different. Be aware that your "chemo" regimen may be different from someone else's, based on very individual—and sometimes subtle—breast cancer factors. These include: lymph node involvement, tumor size, hormone receptor status, grade, and oncogene expression. Be prepared for your doctor to recommend a combination of chemotherapies—together or in a series.

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