Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

What it is, how it works and what you need to know to protect chemo patients.

Many of us know a loved one battling cancer or have lost someone to that brave fight. Each year, tens of millions of people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer and around half of all patients eventually die from it. In all types of cancer, some faulty cells divide without stopping and cause tumors or spread to other parts of the body. Depending on the type of cancer, its stage and location, a doctor may try to treat cancer with just one of the following options or a combination of several strategies including: surgery, chemotherapy and / or radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy or hormone therapy. Although some studies suggest that alternative therapies or herbal medicines may help people coping with cancer, none so far have been proven effective at curing the disease. Chemotherapy is used to stop or slow the growth of cancerous cells, reduce the chances that cancer will return or cure cancer altogether. It can help to ease the symptoms of cancer by shrinking tumors that are causing pain or additional problems.

Chemotherapy

How can wearing a respirator help patients undergoing chemotherapy?

At times, patients still need to visit hospitals and public places while undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Exposure to opportunistic pathogens increases whenever we are around other people, especially other sick people. Respirators provide an effective barrier between the patient and anything nasty floating around in the air. Cambridge Masks have been scientifically proven to filter 99.6% of all viruses and 99.77% of bacteria. Unlike other masks, Cambridge Masks contain military grade activated carbon cloth as well as silver thread which is woven into the filament surface. Together with the anti-bacterial silver, the carbon cloth first traps any bacteria and then draws out the gel-like cytoplasm inside – killing it an preventing infection.

How is chemotherapy administered?

      • Orally – Chemotherapy can be administered in pills, capsules or liquids for a patient to swallow.
      • Intravenously – The chemotherapy drips directly into a vein through an IV.
      • Injected – An injection in the arm, thigh, hip or stomach.
      • Intrathecal – An injection between the layers of tissue covering the brain or spinal chord
      • Intraperitoneal –  The chemotherapy is administered to the peritoneal cavity, which is the area of your      body that contains your major organs such as the stomach, liver, and intestines.
      • Intra-arterial – The chemotherapy is injected into an artery that leads directly to the site of            cancer.
      • Topically – Chemotherapy cream which can be applied directly to the skin.

Chemotherapy

How does chemotherapy work?

Chemotherapy targets those cells that are multiplying and stops them from continuing to divide uncontrollably. As the chemotherapy flows through a patient’s bloodstream, it can reach almost anywhere in the body. Some drugs kill these dividing cells by destroying the cell’s control centre, which is the dark blob in the middle called the nucleus. The nucleus of a cell contains the chromosomes that make up your genes. These genes must be copied each time a cell divides to replace old cells with healthy new ones. In the faulty cell, chemotherapy damages the genes in the cell nucleus which prevents the cell from continuously copying itself.  Other drugs work by interrupting the process of cell division as they damage the cell while it is making new copies of the genes before it splits. Chemotherapy is unlikely to destroy cells that are not in the process of dividing, so healthy cells are unaffected by the treatment.

What are the side effects of chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy

Some cells in your body are constantly dividing, such as the cells that make your hair, your bone marrow that produces blood cells, your skin and the lining of your digestive system. Since these cells are always multiplying, they are targeted by the chemotherapy drugs. However, healthy cells can replace or repair the damage done by chemotherapy so side effects are short-term and can include:

  • mouth sores
  • nausea
  • hair loss
  • fatigue
  • appetite loss
  • constipation
  • anemia

What are the risks involved in chemotherapy? 

Patients being treated with chemotherapy are at an increased risk of infection. Food must be carefully prepared to avoid poisoning by campylobacteriosis, listeriosis, and salmonellosis. Since the chemotherapy will weaken a patient’s immune system, it is important to consider how one can prevent the spread of infection through germs bacteria and viruses. The American Cancer Society advises taking the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Be sure to wash your hands before eating and before touching your face or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.).
  • Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands when you’re out.
  • Use moist cleaning wipes to clean surfaces and things that you touch, such as door handles, ATM or credit card keypads, and any items that are used by other people.
  • Avoid large crowds of people such as school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.
  • Stay away from anyone with a fever, the flu, or other infection.
  • Get your flu shot every fall. Encourage other members of your household to get it, too. DO NOT get the nasal mist flu vaccine.
  • Bathe every day. Be sure to wash your feet, groin, armpits, and other moist, sweaty areas.
  • Wear shoes all the time – in the hospital, outdoors, and at home. This helps you avoid injury and keep germs off your feet.
  • Do not keep fresh flowers or live plants in your bedroom.
  • If you use disposable gloves to avoid touching things like soil or waste, wash your hands after you take off the gloves. (Gloves can have tiny holes that you can’t see.)
  • Use hot water to clean your dishes.
  • Do not share bath towels or drinking glasses with anyone, including family members.

Chemotherapy