SolveYourProblem Article Series: Breast Cancer
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Breast Cancer and Chemotherapy Treatments

In the fight against breast cancer one of the foremost treatments applied is that of chemotherapy. This is the use of strong drugs to destroy cancer cells in the body. It is termed a 'systemic treatment' because it will affect the entire bodily system. Although it is usually given after surgery has been done - this is to help catch and destroy any cancer cells that have left the original area and traveled throughout the body - it can also be administered beforehand and used to help diminish the size of some of the larger tumors.

Chemotherapy has been an effective treatment against cancer because these types of cells are rapidly dividing. Because of this, they lack the needed stability and fuel that would normally help a cell to repair itself. Healthy cells have a better chance of bouncing back.

To determine if a patient will require chemotherapy as a part of their treatment plan a doctor will look at the characteristics of the type of cancer, the size of the tumor and whether or not the cancer may have already spread from the original area.

Chemotherapy is usually a combination of different drugs that is determined by each individual situation. This is because different drugs will work on cancer in different manners. The goal is to give the most effective treatment at this initial stage. It is most often administered intravenously but at times in can be given in pill form. This is done on an out patient basis. The visits to the treatment center will range between four to eight times and will last anywhere from three to six months.

Though much progress has been made in lessening the side effects of this powerful form of treatment, the patient will nonetheless experience some of the following: hair loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, sores in the mouth area, diarrhea, aching in the muscles and joints, menopausal symptoms and some memory fogginess. The nurses and staff that form apart of the team that is caring for you will be able to offer much help in dealing with this discomfort. They will be concerned that you understand everything that is happening in your system.

It may help to understand that part of the problem stems from the fact that certain areas of our body have healthy rapidly dividing cells. This is a protective part of our natural system. Since chemotherapy works on these types of cells the side effects will show up in these areas, such as the mouth, hair, nails, vagina and intestines. Thankfully these areas repair themselves well and once the chemotherapy has been completed they should return to normal.

In some cases chemotherapy can have more serious side effects such as infertility. It is important to have an open and frank conversation with your oncologist in order to make an informed decision about your overall treatment plan. There is no doubt that great progress is being made to make sure the anyone undergoing this treatment will be able to do so as comfortably as possible.

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