Medical oncology uses medications to selectively destroy cancer cells and allows normal cells, tissues and organs to regain their normal functioning. This treatment type can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments, including surgery or radiation oncology.
Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with medications that can inhibit the growth and stop the multiplication of cancer cells.
The medications used for chemotherapy can vary, and newly developed and approved drugs are made available on a regular basis. When a doctor and patient decide on chemotherapy as the best treatment for cancer, one or more chemotherapy drugs may be administered at one time. This is called combination chemotherapy.
What chemotherapy can accomplish:
• Cure the cancer — cancer is considered cured when the patient remains evidence-free of cancer cells for a length of time (determined by the type of cancer).
• Control the cancer — chemotherapy can be used to keep the cancer from spreading, slowing the cancer’s growth, and for killing cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of the body.
In these cases, chemotherapy can:
• Shrink a tumor before surgery or radiation therapy
• Help destroy remaining cancer cells after surgery or radiation therapy
• Make radiation therapy work better
• Help destroy cancer if it recurs or has spread
There are also certain medications used to effectively block blood flow to the cancer cells, thus helping to eradicate those cells within the tumor and the body. The process is known as chemoembolization, and involves the use of cancer drugs such as fluorouracil, cis-platin, adriamycin or mitomycin. These drugs are used in combination with embolization, or the blockage of blood flow, at the site of the cancer.
In determining if chemotherapy is a viable treatment option, the patient’s doctor will take into consideration the type of cancer, the part of the body where the cancer is found, the effect of the cancer on the patient’s normal body function, and the patient’s general health.
For more information on medical oncology and chemotherapy, contact the Cancer Treatment Center.