Chemotherapy: Tips for Protecting 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 tumours to spread to other parts of the body. Depending on the type of cancer, its stage and location, a doctor may try to treat it with just one method or through 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 have proven to cure the disease. Chemotherapy is used to stop or slow the growth of cancerous cells, reduce the chances that cancer will return, or cure it altogether. Chemotherapy can also help to ease the symptoms of cancer by shrinking tumours that are causing pain or creating additional problems.
How can wearing a respirator help patients undergoing chemotherapy?
At times, patients will 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. The Cambridge Mask PRO has been scientifically proven to filter 99.6% of viruses and 99.77% of bacteria. Unlike other masks, the Cambridge Mask PRO contains military-grade activated carbon cloth as well as silver thread in 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 and preventing infection.
How is chemotherapy administered?
There are a number of ways by which chemotherapy is administered, and they are:
- Orally: Chemotherapy pills, capsules or liquids are given to the patient to swallow
- Intravenously: A chemotherapy drip is fed directly into the vein through an IV
- Injected: An injection is made into the arm, hip, or thigh
- Intrathecal: An injection is made between the layers of tissue covering the brain or spinal cord
- Intraperitoneal: The chemotherapy is administered to the peritoneal cavity, which is the area of the body that contains the 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 can be directly applied to the skin
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 destroy the cell’s control centre, killing the nucleus – the dark blob in the middle. The nucleus of a cell contains the chromosomes that make up your genes. Each time a cell divides, these genes are copied to replace the old ones with new healthy ones. Chemotherapy targets the faulty cells, homing in on the genes in the cell nucleus, destroying it and thus preventing 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, and the treatment will not affect cells that are at rest, such as most normal cells.
What are the side effects of 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, the chemotherapy drugs will target these new cells. Healthy cells can replace the damage incurred from the chemotherapy, there will however be the following short-term side effects:
- mouth sores
- hair loss
- appetite loss
What are the risks involved in chemotherapy?
Patients are reluctant to receive chemotherapy due to risk of infection. Food must be carefully prepared to avoid poisoning by campylobacteriosis, listeriosis, and salmonellosis. Since 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 other people's stuff
- 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 some other infection
- A flu shot needs to be taken by every fall season. Encourage other members of your household to get it too.
- 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 keeps 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