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The Ultimate Guide to Chemotherapy

The Ultimate Guide to Chemotherapy


Chemotherapy is one way of treating cancer that uses anticancer drugs to inhibit cell division. Chemotherapy was first developed in the beginning of the twentieth century but was not intended to be used as a form of cancer medication. Chemotherapy works throughout the whole body unlike radiation and surgery that only target specific areas. Chemotherapy works to inhibit cell division by destroying, controlling the spread and shrinking cancer cells to slow down the growth of tumors. There are different chemotherapy treatments I am going to discuss in The Ultimate Guide to Chemotherapy that include:

1. Alkylating agents

Alkylating agents are the earliest types of chemotherapy drugs in use. They are known as alkylating agents because they bind to the DNA structure through the alkyl group. They are cycle independent drugs as they can work at any stage in the cell division process. Examples of alkylating agents used in chemotherapy are: nitrosureas, nitrogen mustards, hydrazines, metal salts and ethylenimines.

2. Plant Alkaloids

These are plant extracted chemotherapy treatments that are used to block cell division. There are two main groups of alkaloids: Vinca alkaloids and Taxanes. Vinca alkaloids prevent the formation of microtubules and taxanes prevent microtubules separation. Together, they prevent cancer cells from from completing cell division process by inhibiting microtubules formation and separation and then setting in motion programmed cell death. Vinca alkaloids are extracted from the Madagascar periwinkle, examples include vincristine, vinblastine and vinorelbine.
Taxanes are derived from May Apple plant. Examples of taxanes are paclitaxel and docetaxel. We also have camatothecan analogs derived from the campotothean acuminata used in special types of chemotherapy.

3. Antimetabolites

Antimetabolites are a type of chemotherapy treatments that block DNA and RNA integration. Antimetabolites work by blocking enzymes required for DNA and RNA synthesis thus preventing cell division. They are cell cycle dependent and only work during a specific cell cycle synthesis phase. They have DNA and RNA similar structures, cells incorporate them into cellular metabolism and they inhibit cell division. Antimetabolites are categorized according to the substances they interfere with, examples include pyriminidine, purine, folic antagonist(s) and adenosine deaminase inhibitor.

3. Topoisomerase inhibitors

Topoisomerase inhibitors interfere with the action of topoisomerase enzymes and control the DNA synthesis during chemotherapy treatments. There are two main groups of topoisomerase inhibitors; topoisomerase I inhibitors (topotecan and irinotecan) and topoisomerase II inhibitors (etopodide and trinoside).

4. Cytotoxic inhibitors

These are chemotherapy treatments that are extracted from a soil fungus streptomyces. They are cell cycle specific and are active during many phases of cell division. Examples include anthracyclines, chromomycins and mitomycins.


How you may feel when undergoing different parts lf chemotherapy treatment varies depending on the patient, cancer, cancer stage and type of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be issued using either oral or intravenous methods. In intravenous administering, chemotherapy treatment may be injected directly to a blood vein or infused.
One is likely to feel fatigue, pain, nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy treatment.

1. Pain

Some chemotherapy treatment cause pain that is experienced in joints, muscles, stomach, hands and feet. Tingling pain is felt in these areas and may be felt from the first week of medication to several weeks after the last treatment.

2. Fatigue

It is common to feel fatigue after chemotherapy treatment. Fatigue can last for months and even cause anemia. One feels fatigued because of nutritional depletion during chemotherapy. Anaerobic exercise is recommended to reduce fatigue while under medication.

3. Nausea

One feels nauseated and vomits as one of the first side effects of taking chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) is common with patients receiving chemotherapy treatment.


1. infertility

Chemotherapy treatment may result in infertility. Alkylating drugs such as cyclophosphamide have a high risk of causing infertility among patients. Female infertility is caused by premature ovarian failure through primordial follicles. This is not a direct effect of chemotherapy treatment but is as a result of the body’s increased initiation to replace damaged follicles. This risk is only prevalent in young patients.

2. Kidney damage

Chemotherapy treatment used to treat cancer with with a large number of white blood cells will cause tumor lyses syndrome. The rapid breakdown of cancer cells makes the cells to release phosphate chemicals from the inside in large amounts. High levels of phosphate in the blood causes secondary hypoparathyroidism and low levels of of calcium in the blood. This may lead to kidney failure.

3. Heart problems

Heart problems are severe side effects on using certain chemotherapy treatment. Heart problems like cardiomyopathy that enlargen and weaken the heart are common in certain chemotherapy treatments
Depending on the type of cancer and how advanced it is, different chemotherapy treatments can be used to either control, reduce symptoms or cure outlined on The Ultimate Guide to Chemotherapy.

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