Chemotherapy is the preferred line of therapy to treat cancer. The standardized treatment regimen for cancer disease includes administration of either a single or combination of antineoplastic (anti-cancerous) drugs. Certain types of chemotherapy drugs are effective in treating various medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, and scleroderma. These drugs are highly potent and are administered to treat the invading cancer cells in the digestive tract, ovaries, lungs, pancreas, bone marrow and hair follicles.
Some of the commonly prescribed chemotherapy medicines possess typical therapeutic properties towards cancer cells. They usually inhibit the abnormal division of cancer cells by directly causing cellular lysis (cell death). The agents used in chemotherapy also inhibit the action of rapidly dividing non-cancerous cells in the body under normal conditions. The recently used anticancer drugs basically act against the cancer cells by attacking their abnormal protein cell membrane. To be more specific, it is usually referred as a targeted therapy.
Side effects of chemotherapy
The side effects caused by chemotherapy may vary based on various factors such as patient’s overall health condition, type of chemotherapeutic agent used, cancer stage, tumor involvement, and metastasis (spread of cancer to distant sites) to name a few. Some of the most common side effects caused by chemotherapy drugs include suppression of the immune system including myelosuppression (reduced blood cell production) leading to anemia; complete alopecia (hair loss); mucositis (inflamed lining cells of the mouth, intestines, stomach and digestive tract); and increased bleeding tendency.
Immunosuppression predisposes the patient to develop life threatening infections that can rapidly progress and complicate life. Chronic fatigue is often experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and may develop severe anemia. These patients develop low platelet counts (blood cells), thus commonly present with bleeding and bruises.