Normally, most cells in the body divide by splitting into two cells. This splitting of cells is required to grow, heal, and perform essential bodily functions. Occasionally this cell division gets out of control and causes cancer. Chemotherapy works by killing cells that multiply very fast, such as these cancer cells. This action results in the death of the cancer cells, which may reduce the cancer burden in the body, resulting in improved symptoms, prolongation of life, or cure.
Sometimes chemotherapy can also kill normal cells that divide very fast, such as hair, nails, immune cells, etc., which may result in some side effects. However, normal cells can repair themselves and regenerate, unlike cancer cells that cannot.
Chemotherapy is a medicine that is either given as an infusion via the vein or taken as tablets. Sometimes it can be given in the peritoneum (intraperitoneal chemotherapy), bladder (intravesicular chemotherapy), under the skin (subcutaneous chemotherapy), on top of the skin (topical chemotherapy), via the artery (intra-arterial chemotherapy), or in the CSF in the spinal canal (intrathecal chemotherapy).
What is Adjuvant chemotherapy?
Adjuvant chemotherapy is when chemotherapy is given after a primary curative treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy. The central role of adjuvant chemotherapy is to kill the microscopic cancer cells in the body, thereby reducing the chances of cancer coming back. This elimination of invisible cancer cells may result in an increased chance of cure after the primary treatment.
What is Neoadjuvant chemotherapy?
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy means when chemotherapy is given before a primary curative treatment such as surgery. This approach is usually done to reduce the tumor size and the cancer burden and make surgery easier and less extensive. It can also be used to preserve an organ by shrinking cancer so that the whole organ is not lost. Giving neoadjuvant chemotherapy also means that the microscopic disease burden is killed earlier, and like in the adjuvant chemotherapy, it may result in an increased chance of cure after the primary treatment.
What is induction chemotherapy?
Induction chemotherapy means giving chemotherapy with a view of inducing remission in cancer. It is typically offered in blood cancers. Some people also call neoadjuvant chemotherapy induction chemotherapy.
What is consolidation chemotherapy?
Consolidation chemotherapy means giving chemotherapy after remission in cancer is achieved. This strategy is to keep cancer in remission and is commonly used in blood cancers.
What is maintenance chemotherapy?
Maintenance chemotherapy means giving low-dose chemotherapy for prolonged periods after a definitive course of chemotherapy with a view of maintaining the response achieved with definitive chemotherapy.
What is palliative chemotherapy?
Palliative chemotherapy means giving chemotherapy to improve symptoms due to cancer, without the expectation of cure from cancer.
What is first-line chemotherapy?
First-line chemotherapy is when chemotherapy is given the first time for that cancer. It is different for different cancers. First-line chemotherapy is generally identified through extensive research and clinical trials to have the best possible chance of working against cancer.
What is second-line chemotherapy?
Second-line chemotherapy is when chemotherapy is given after the failure of first-line chemotherapy. It is also different for different cancers and generally identified through extensive research and clinical trials to have the next best possible chance of working against cancer.
What is chemoradiotherapy?
Chemoradiotherapy is defined as chemotherapy given along with radiotherapy. In these situations, lower dose chemotherapy is generally given to increase the effect of radiotherapy, resulting in a better response to radiotherapy treatment and increased chances of cure.
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