Chemotherapy Process – How Chemotherapy Works?

Posted By: admin | Posted on: 03 April, 2017 11:45 am

Chemotherapy Process – FAQs

Chemotherapy Process Video

In the above cancer treatment chemotherapy process video you saw what chemotherapy is, what is the goal of chemotherapy process, treatment cycle of chemotherapy process, how chemotherapy works and how it is given.

What is a tumour?

A tumour is a clump of abnormal cells

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Normally when cells grow old, they die and new cells take their place as the body needs them.

Sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the body does not need them. Also, old cells do not die when they should. So, these extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumour. A tumour is a clump of abnormal cells.

Tumours can be either benign or malignant:

Benign tumours are not cancer. They can grow large. But they do not invade tissues or travel to other areas of the body.

Malignant tumours are cancer. These tumours spread elsewhere away from the original (primary) site in the body. This could be the sign of cancer, it is called metastasis.

Some cancer cells acquire the ability to penetrate the walls of lymphatic or blood vessels. After which they circulate through the bloodstream to other sites and tissues in the body. The tumour cells come to rest at another site. They re-penetrate the vessel or walls and continue to multiply. Eventually form another clinically detectable tumour. This new tumour is known as a metastatic or secondary tumour. Its cells are similar to those in the original or primary tumour.

What is tumour staging?

The size of tumour in prostate cancer increases and then it spreads to different organs
Stage of Tumour Example: Stage of Prostate Cancer

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Staging is a system to describe a malignant tumour by:

  • Its size of the original or primary tumour.
  • Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other organs of the body.

Staging helps your doctor plan the treatment and determine if they are the signs of cancer.

The TNM (Tumour, Node, and Metastasis) staging system:

This system describes the size of the initial cancer – the primary tumour. Whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Also, whether it has spread to a different part of the body (metastasised).

How is the treatment decided?

Cancer is complex. The same type of cancer can vary from person to person.

The oncologist doctor may be a surgeon who uses surgery to treat the cancer.

A specialist in radiation therapy called radiotherapist who uses radiation therapy.

A medical oncologist- who provides chemotherapy process and related treatments.

Each may consult with the others to develop a treatment plan for the particular patient.

That’s why the treatment medication regimen depends on the needs of the person taking it. Depending on:

Types Of Cancer
Different Types Of Cancer

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The type of cancer:

On the basis of certain symptoms and the results of the preliminary screening, diagnostic and pathology tests the doctor confirms the cancer.

The doctor takes the medical history, does physical exam and order a number of tests. Especially, the type of cancer and where it is suspected to be located in or on the person’s body determines it.

To get additional information, the doctor may also ask for radiology tests, procedures like endoscopy, biopsy and /or nuclear scans.

The stage of the cancer:

Tumour size and spread – The doctor has to determine if the cancer that has been found localized to its site of origin. Also, if it has spread from that site to other tissues.

A localized cancer is said to be at an early stage. On the other hand, one which has spread is at an advanced stage.

However, there are a number of different staging methods used for cancers and the specific staging criteria varies among cancer types. The common elements considered in most staging systems are:

  • The site of the primary tumour
  • Tumour size
  • Number of tumours
  • Lymph node involvement i.e. the spread of cancer into lymph nodes
  • Cell type and tumour grade i.e. how closely the cancer cells resemble normal tissue cells
  • The presence or absence of metastasis

Age and overall health of the patient:

Younger patient with better general health is more likely to respond quicker and better to the treatment.

Treatment goals:

The goals though differ and may change along the line of treatment. Cancer treatment is primarily to cure the cancer completely or to control the spread of cancer. Also, slow its growth or destroy cancer cells. At times, to ease the cancer symptoms and pain. At times the treatment is to ease cancer symptoms.

When cancer is in the advanced stage, chemo may be used to shrink cancer tumour that are causing pain or pressure.

What are the treatment options?

There are many options to treat cancer, during the treatment doctor examines the cancer progress and tumour response. One of the treatments is stem cell transplant
Stem Cells Used To Treat Disease

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Treatment plans may also include one or more other types of therapy. During treatment, doctor monitors the cancer progress and tumour response.

Your doctor will modify your treatment plan to achieve the best possible results. Moreover, it depends upon the type of cancer, its growth & spread and stage. Therefore, the treating team decides the treatment protocol for the patient.

Common types of cancer treatment includes one or combination of the following treatment options:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy (chemo)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Biologic therapy
  • Stem cell transplantation

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy process is a treatment that includes a medication or combination of medications to treat cancer.

The goal of chemotherapy process is to kill cancer cells or slow cancer’s growth over time. The treatment of cancer use specific chemical agents or drugs that are selectively toxic to malignant cells and tissues. Finally, the goal is to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Chemo medications attack rapidly growing cancer cells. They can also affect healthy cells that grow rapidly. However, chemo is often given several times over weeks or months which is known as a course of treatment. A course of treatment consists of a series of treatment periods called cycles.

Since chemo also kills normal cells, periods of rest (when you receive no treatment) follows the chemo days. This rest lets your body recover and produce new healthy cells.

What Is Treatment Cycle And How Chemotherapy Works?

Chemo is often given several times over weeks or months. It is known as a course of treatment called cycles
Cancer Treatment Cycle

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Chemo is often given several times over weeks or months. It is known as a course of treatment called cycles. However, each cycle may be of a day or many days at a stretch depending on the type of chemo medicine and patients’ tolerance to the same. In conclusion, the goal of chemotherapy process is to kill cancer cells or slow cancer’s growth over time.

Chemotherapy drugs can be given in a variety of different ways.

Before a pharmaceutical company releases a specific chemo drug for commercial use with patients, scientists and chemotherapy doctors conducts clinical trials. They determine how specific chemo drugs absorb in the body and how they work. Thus, the method of administration of chemo treatments and the optimum dose is determined.

Sometimes stomach juices can destroy different chemicals. It makes some medications impossible to give as a pill. However, other substances have better anti-cancer action if given intravenously as an injection in the vein. Some medications can be given as an injection into the muscle. And others are absorbed better when given directly into the bladder or the abdominal cavity.

Depending upon the type of tumour, its size, spread and extent the treating team decides the treatment protocol for a particular patient.


How chemotherapy is done?

Your doctor will choose the medications hat can best fight the type of cancer you have, this includes: Injections, IV infusion, oral, topical ointment, Intra-arterial and Intraperitoneal
Chemotherapy Treatment

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Your chemotherapy doctor will choose certain medications that can best fight the type of cancer you have. He will create a treatment plan also known as a protocol. This includes the type of chemo medications you will receive. The plan also includes the medication dose and how often you will receive it. They may also add the medications that help support your body’s ability to better tolerate the chemo from start to finish.

Chemotherapy treatment plans may use a single medication or a combination of medications that can be delivered in more than one way. The goal of the schedule is to give chemo medications as often as possible while minimizing chemo side effects.

  • Injection: Types of injection include:
    • Subcutaneous (SQ): Chemo given as a shot just under the skin
    • Intramuscular (IM): Chemo given as a shot directly into a muscle
    • Intravenous (IV): Chemo given as a shot directly into a vein
  • IV infusion: Chemo medications drips through a tube with needle attachment and put into a vein. PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheters) is used to give chemotherapy treatment or other medicines. A PICC line is a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter). It’s put into one of the large veins of the arm, above the bend of the elbow.
  • Oral: Chemo taken by mouth as a pill or liquid
  • Topical ointment: A cream containing the chemo medication that is rubbed into the skin
  • Intra-arterial (IA): Chemo delivered into an artery that is connected to the tumour
  • Intraperitoneal (IP): Chemo given directly into the area that contains the intestines, stomach, liver, ovaries etc called the peritoneal cavity

What are the side effects of chemo drugs?

Chemotherapy process works on active cells. Active cells grow and divide. Also, cancer cells are active. Most healthy cells are active. These include cells in your blood, mouth, digestive system and hair follicles.

Side effects happen when chemotherapy damages healthy cells. The side effects of chemotherapy process generally depend on the type of therapy. Most chemotherapy side effects reduce or cease after treatment. Although uncommon, some treatments may produce long-term effects.

Long term effects are:


This is a persistent feeling of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion. Cancer related fatigue differs from feeling tired due to lack of rest. Thus, receiving multiple treatment types may increase your fatigue. It damages a number of blood cells that divide rapidly along with cancer cells during chemotherapy causing:

  • Neutropenia: Since, white blood cells help protect the body from infection. If your white blood cell count gets too low, you could get an infection.
  • Anemia: Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. However, anemia can lead to fatigue, chest pain and more complications.
  • Thrombocytopenia: Platelets are structures in the blood that help stop bleeding. Therefore, a low platelet count can cause bruising and bleeding.

Nervous system:

Some drugs cause nerve damage. In general, nerve or muscle symptoms may include:

  • tingling, burning, weakness or numbness in the limbs
  • weak, sore, tired or achy muscles
  • loss of balance
  • shaking or trembling
  • stiffness of neck
  • persistent headache and problems seeing
  • hearing or walking abnormally


Chemotherapy process affects hair follicles (rapidly growing cells). Thus leading to hair loss.


It affects mucous membrane cell lining of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines and the rectum to the anus. Therefore, it causes mouth sores, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea or constipation.

Hearing impairment:

Partial or complete loss of hearing

Loss of appetite:

One should try to eat well by taking smaller and more frequent meals and take in plenty of fluids.

Nails and skin:

Nails may become flaky and brittle. The skin may become more sensitive to sunlight, patchy, dry and sore.

Cognitive problems:

Shorter attention span; lack of focus & concentration, problems in Comprehension and understanding, Judgment and reasoning and memory.

Libido and fertility issues:

Chemotherapy can affect your fertility.

Especially, for women the ability to get pregnant and carrying a pregnancy. However, for men it affects his ability to father a child. In addition, fatigue and other side effects can affect one’s ability to enjoy sex.

Mood swings and depression

What is the importance of drinking water during chemotherapy process?

Staying hydrated can help minimize the fatigue and constipation caused by chemo
Importance Of drinking Water During Chemotherapy

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In fact, staying hydrated can help minimize the fatigue and constipation caused by chemo. Also, it protects the kidneys from the toxic waste buildup caused from cancer drugs. Since, the chemotherapy process causes the body to lose more water and become dehydrated.

Which are the foods to avoid during and after chemo?

  • Unwashed fresh fruit and vegetables, especially leafy vegetables that can hide dirt and other contaminants
  • Raw sprouts and vegetables
  • Raw or undercooked beef and poultry
  • Cold meat cuts and dry-cured, uncooked salami, any type of fish. Always cook or reheat these foods until they are steaming hot.
  • Unpasteurized beverages like fruit juices and raw milk
  • Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk
  • Undercooked eggs

Simple steps for food safety

Foods to be eaten during chemotherapy process
Healthy Foods During Chemotherapy Process

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  • Shop smart. Buy food stored and displayed in a clean area. Do not buy bruised or damaged fruits or vegetables. Also, do not buy cans that have cracks, dents, or bulges. Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables under running water, and dry them with a clean towel or paper towel.
  • Clean your hands, utensils and dishes with hot water and soap.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry and fish away from other food. Bacteria can spread through contact with the food or its liquid, causing cross-contamination.
  • Dispose off old food. Eat canned and packaged food before its expiration date.

To check the cost of Chemotherapy in your nearby clinics and hospitals Click here

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Other useful links

Chemo Cost – 13 factors Contributing To Chemotherapy Cost

Chemotherapy Drugs

What is Radiotherapy-Types Of Radiotherapy And Side Effects

Oncology – Treatment Of Cancer

Cancers in Youth

Treatment Of Cancer-Complimentary And Alternative Medicine