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Chemotherapy refers to treatment with drugs, or chemicals, in precisely measured doses designed to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells. For many years, chemotherapy has been used to treat metastatic cancer.
Chemotherapy is especially effective against leukemias, lymphomas, testicular cancer, and Hodgkin's disease. It is often used in conjunction with other forms of treatment against cancers in their microscopic stages. Chemotherapy may also be recommended to further ensure that micrometastatic disease is eradicated. Combination chemotherapy, in which a selection of drugs is given in planned sequence, can help prevent the build-up of resistance, and make a dramatic difference in the outcome of some forms of cancer.
Chemotherapeutic drugs may temporarily damage healthy cells, and as a result patients may experience side effects from the treatment. These may include nausea, vomiting, general weakness and diarrhea. Patients may also experience decreased libido, but in almost all cases, this is temporary.
New drugs have become available in the past five years that greatly reduce the incidence of nausea and vomiting and accelerate recovery of the damaged cells. Fortunately, hair loss, which many patients cite as the most distressing side effect of chemotherapy, is temporary.
Your surgeon may also remove some lymph nodes in the localized area to determine if the cancer has spread. This helps your doctor assess the need for further treatment options.
Traditionally, the primary purpose of cancer surgery is to cure your cancer by physically removing all of it from your body. The surgeon usually does this by removing the cancerous area along with some surrounding tissue to ensure that all of the cancer is eliminated.
Radiation oncology involves the exposure of cancer cells to high doses of radiation with the goal of killing the cancerous tumor while allowing the adjacent normal cells to repair themselves.
Radiation is targeted, localized treatment that can be used alone as well as in conjunction with other treatments, including surgery or chemotherapy.
For more information on radiation oncology, contact our Radiation Oncology team at 909.920.4841.