Having to undergo Chemotherapy is stressful enough without the fear of losing your hair. Your hair is generally a really important aspect in you life and therefore can be extremely upsetting for people who are having Chemotherapy treatment.
What is Chemotherapy and how does it work?
Chemotherapy ‘chemo’ is a chemical treatment which is used to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy has been around since the 1940’s (days of the Ancient Greeks). Back in the 1940’s they didn’t have the technology and knowledge we have now regarding cancer and tumours. The chemotherapy they used was Nitrogen mustard.
Chemotherapy is used for a variety of purposes these include:
– To cure specific types of Cancer.
-To reduce the size of a tumour before surgery/radiation treatment
-To control the growth of a tumour which has no cure.
-To prevent possible cancer reoccurring after the tumour being surgically removed.
Cancer occurs when your body keeps dividing and forming specific cells without the ability to stop. Chemotherapy treatment is designed to eliminate cancer cells however the treatment also destroys healthy cells which should normally divide quickly. This means your immune system is low and therefore you are at risk of contracting colds, flu’s and infections.
What are the different ways of getting Chemotherapy Treatment?
Chemotherapy treatment is given in a number of ways depending on the treatment needed, this is determined when you have vigorous tests called chemical trials. During the chemical trials, drugs are absorbed into your body.This will determine the best type of Chemotherapy for you.
This is when you swallow either a pill, tablet, capsule or liquid. These drugs are absorbed by the stomach and passes around your body. It is impossible for the drugs to be absorbed anywhere else in your body as it requires your stomach acid o break down the protective casing of the drug.
Subcutaneous injection ‘Sub-q’
This is a type of Chemotherapy which involves a small needle, very similar to an insulin needed used by a diabetic. The needle is inserted into the space between the skin and muscle. This needle does not penetrate the muscle layer.
Intra-muscular injections This involves a larger needle than the one used in Sub-q as it needs to penetrate the muscle layer. The Chemotherapy drugs are injected into the muscle layer therefore the absorption of the medication is faster than oral form but slower than Sub-q. This type of Chemotherapy is known to be very hash but is very popular method for anti-sickness medication as it bypasses the stomach.
Intravenous Chemotherapy ‘IV’
This type of treatment is when the Chemotherapy dugs are injected directly into your bloodstream. This allows the treatment to rapidly enter the bodies circulation. This is the most common method of Chemotherapy as the dosage can be controlled and as it has a rapid absorption time therefore is the most versatile.
This type of treatment is used when the drugs need to reach the Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This is the fluid on the Brain and Spinal Cord. There is only two way for Chemotherapy to reach the CSF which are a Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap) or Ommaya Reservoir (Small dome shape device attached to a Catheter placed between the skin and the muscle on the scalp). The Lumbar Puncture procedure is Intrathecal and the Ommaya Reservoir is Intra Ventricular.
This Chemotherapy treatment is given directly into the Abdominal Cavity. This method of Chemotherapy allows the drugs to be absorbed into the organs and to the tumour area. This means that the tumour will get a higher concentration of Chemotherapy than usual and the rest of the body isn’t being intoxicated. Even though the tumour gets a higher dose of Chemotherapy the decrease in cancer has not been demonstrated.
Before you start this type of Chemotherapy you have to have a special X-Ray called a Angiography. This X-Ray is used to find all the blood vessels with supply the tumour with blood and dyes them. The Chemotherapy drugs are given into the artery with is supplying the blood vessels and tumour with blood.There are two ways in which this treatment which are are using a temporary external catheter or an implanted pump. When having a temporary external catheter a radiologist will insert a catheter into the artery and will remove it after medication is given. When having an implanted pump its is surgically inserted into the Subcutaneous Tissue (layer between skin and muscle). The pump can be removed when treatment is finished. With Intra-Arteria treatments the tumour is exposed to high quantities of the drug without the toxicity through your body. Although the tumour responds very well with this treatment, there have been no survival benefits to date.
This method of Chemotherapy treatment is given directly to the bladder. You will have a urinary catheter inserted, the medication is injected into the catheter which is then clamped. The reason the catheter is clamped is to keep the medication in the bladder. Patients are encouraged to roll from side to side during treatment to ensure the medication reaches the whole bladder. After you have had the medication in your bladder a certain amount of time the catheter will be unclamped and the remaining medication will be drained out and catheter removed. This type of treatment is used for people who have cancer on the lining of the bladder which cannot be removed.
Intra-pleural chemotherapy is used to control Malignant Pleural Effusions. A Malignant Pleural Effusion is a collection of cancerous fluid within the Pleural space (lining of the lung). Having this collection of fluid can make breathing very difficult and also cause your lung to collapse. You can have this fluid drained however you will continue to get this collection of fluid unless Intra-plural chemotherapy is given. This procedure is also known as sclerosis or pleurodesis. After you have been drained(can take a couple of days) the medication is inserted into the chest tube. The Chemotherapy makes the lung stick to the plural lining with will make the lung expand and stay expanded.
This type of treatment is designed to kill cancer cells left behind after surgery. Implantable chemotherapy treatment is commonly used after surgical removal of a brain tumour, specifically glioblastoma multiforme. After your surgeon has removed your tumour they implant up to 8 wafers the size of 5 pence coins in the space where the tumour was. Over the next 2-3 weeks the wafers will slowly dissolve which will coat the surrounding cells with the medication.
This chemotherapy treatment involves creams which are applied directly to the skin. Topical Chemotherapy is usually used in certain types of skin cancer. The cream absorbed in the skin where the cancerous cells are.