Written by

Hannah Luscombe - Associate & Senior Solicitor

What is Chemotherapy? 

Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer through which medicine is used to fight and kill cancer cells within the body. There are different types of chemotherapy, which work in a similar way – according to the NHS. Each type is designed to prevent cancer cells from reproducing which then prevents the cells from reproducing and spreading around the body. 

 

Are there any side effects of chemotherapy? 

Macmillan Cancer Support, chemotherapy treatment can result in different side effects and your doctor or nurse can support you in controlling and managing them. The side effects of chemotherapy can depend on the type of chemotherapy drug that is being used, some of which are mild and you may be prescribed additional drugs to help control them. Some may be harder to treat but you will be provided information on how to manage them. When chemotherapy is finished, any side effects are likely to stop or slowly go away. 

If you are having single drug chemotherapy you are less likely to have as many side effects as someone who is having a combination of drugs in their treatment. High doses of chemotherapy can lead to more side effects. 

Possible side effects are likely to affect: 

  • Bone marrow 
  • Hair follicles 
  • The digestive system 
  • The lining of your mouth 

Known side effects of chemotherapy are: 

  • Tiredness 
  • Changes to your skin or nails 
  • A sensation of numbness in your hands and/or feet  
  • Effects on your nervous system 
  • Changes to how your kidneys work 
  • Changes in your hearing 
  • Increased risk of blood clots 
  • Change in your sex drive 

What are the different types of chemotherapy? 

The way in which chemotherapy is administered can be dependant upon the type of cancer a patient has say Macmillan Cancer Support. 

According to Mayo Clinic, the different types of chemotherapy administration are: 

  • Chemotherapy infusion: this is one of the most common types of chemotherapy, in which the drugs are given via an infusion straight into the vein 
  • Chemotherapy pills: This where the drugs are given to the patient in tablet form  
  • Chemotherapy shots: This type of chemotherapy involves the patient being injected with drugs with a needle 
  • Chemotherapy creams: for certain types of skin cancer, creams or gels can be applied to the skin to support the treatment 
  • Chemotherapy treatment for one area of the body: This type of chemotherapy can be given in through the abdomen (known as intraperitoneal chemotherapy), chest cavity (intrapleural chemotherapy) or central nervous system (intrathecal chemotherapy). Chemotherapy can also be given through the urethra into the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy). 
  • Chemotherapy applied directly to the cancer: Sometimes cancerous areas are treated directly this can involve thin disc-shaped wafers containing drugs being placed near a tumour during surgery 

 

What is the difference between neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy? 

As stated by Cancer Treatment Centers of America, neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapies can be used to help treat different types of cancer such as lung cancer, bowel cancer and  breast cancer. These can include some of the treatments list above such as treatments directed at the cancer.  

However, there are differences between the two therapies. Primarily, neoadjuvant therapy is usually performed prior to the main treatment of cancer. The aim of carry out neoadjuvant therapy before the main cancer treatment is to reduce and/or kill cancer cells that may have spread around the body. Adjuvant therapy is performed once the main cancer treatment is complete, with the aim of removing and killing any remaining cancer cells. 

It is most likely that these treatments will be offered to patients whose cancer is in the early stages and are undergoing surgery to have it removed. It is thought that neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapies can be beneficial for a lot of cancer patients but not everyone will benefit. The type of or stage of the patient’s cancer will usually determine whether they are eligible for extra treatments. 

 

What is palliative chemotherapy? 

Although there are many times of treatments for cancer whether they are curative or palliative. They are used for different purposes; curative treatments are used with the intention of curing cancer whereas palliative treatment is used as symptom relief.  

According to Healthline, palliative chemotherapy may be part of a patient’s treatment. The aims of palliative chemotherapy are different to chemotherapy that is intended to cure someone’s cancer. Palliative chemotherapy is most used when a patient’s cancer has reached a stage where the cancer has spread, and treatments are unlikely to cure them. Therefore, palliative chemotherapy is used to help improve the patient’s quality of life. 

The decision to prescribe palliative chemotherapy is often assessed against the following criteria: 

  • The patient’s life expectancy 
  • The current symptoms of the patient 
  • Whether any side effects would reduce, rather than improve, quality of life of the patient 

As with many treatments, there are pros and cons to palliative chemotherapy. Pros of palliative chemotherapy include an improved quality of life, reduced symptoms and pain, and potential for life expectancy to be prolonged. The cons include cancer will not be cured and the patient may suffer from side effects. 

 

Have you suffered chemotherapy negligence? 

As medical negligence experts, we have experience in handling cases in relation to chemotherapy. An example of this is when a 77 year-old man received unnecessary chemotherapy. This happened when the hospital failed to diagnose his prostate cancer and as a result he was compensated £12,500. If your chemotherapy treatment has been negligent, we can support you during the legal process.  

Concerned about your medical treatment?

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