Currently the numerous advances in the field of medicine have helped doctors to lessen and even prevent many side effects of cancer treatments. However, parents whose children require chemotherapy (which is one of the most common treatments for cancer in children) often have a lot of questions regarding this procedure.
Chemotherapy is usually just called chemo and it refers to the medications, which help kill actively dividing abnormal cells. Unlike the healthy cells in the body, cancer cells keep grow continuously as they do not respond to the normal signals, which control the cell growth.
If your child is diagnosed with cancer, the doctors involved should develop a customized treatment plan suited especially to his needs. It will take into account your child’s details like this age, the type of cancer he is suffering and where it is located. Sometimes a paediatric oncologist might also work along with other health care professionals to determine which kind of chemotherapy regimen is best for your child.
How Is Chemotherapy Given?
Just like medicines can be taken in various forms to cure diseases, there are many ways to receive chemotherapy. In the majority of cases, it is given intravenously (through a vein) which is also called an IV, attached to a bag, which contains the medicine. It flows directly from the bag into the vein, during which the medicine enters the bloodstream, thus letting it travel throughout the body and attack cancer cells.
Chemotherapy also can be:
- Taken as a pill or capsule which is swallowed
- Given via an injection into a muscle or skin
- Injected into your child’s spinal fluid via a needle in the lower spine
It is also sometimes combined with other cancer treatments like radiation therapy and surgery to get the best results. A lot of children receive a combination of therapies ie the use of two or more cancer-fighting drugs or procedures because it simply lessens the chance of the cancer becoming resistant to one specific type of drug while simultaneously improving the chances of the cancer being cured.
Common Side Effects
Even though chemotherapy very effectively damages or eliminates cancer cells, it can also damage the normal and healthy cells in the body, leading to several side effects. These side effects are different for different children. The type of anti-cancer drug used, its dosage along with your child’s general health will affect the eventual risk of developing the side effects.
The good news is that most of these side effects are temporary in nature, and just as the body’s normal cells recover, the side effects gradually disappear.
Any cancer treatment is always multifaceted i.e. patients will receive a lot of care and after care which will help them tolerate the various treatments and prevent side effects like nausea and vomiting. It is very difficult to predict which side effects your child might experience, how long they may last and when they will finally end. If your child shows any side effects, make it a point to talk with your doctor about which is the best way to cope with them.