The human body during chemotherapy

Treatment of oncological diseases

There are a number of oncological diseases which can be treated with chemotherapy. The aim of the treatment depends on the type of cancer and its stage. Chemotherapy is used for treating cancer and destroying all cancer cells; for diminishing the possibility of the oncological disease recurring; for removing cancer cells which exist in the body but are too small to be detected. It is important that these cells are destroyed so that the oncological disease is kept in check (when it is highly unlikely for the chemotherapy to treat cancer but it can stop it from metastasising for a specific period of time) and to relieve the symptoms (to decrease the size of the tumour if its size causes any symptoms).

Medicines and Therapies

Chemotherapeutic drugs penetrate the circulatory system and reach each part of the body. This is called systemic treatment. Radiotherapy and surgery are called local therapies.

Chemotherapeutic drugs destroy cancer cells by damaging them in such a way that they are not able to divide and grow. Besides tumour cells chemotherapeutic drugs may affect normal cells as well. Damage to healthy cells leads to side effects. Some of the side effects are temporary, as healthy cells can multiply and grow quickly, but there are cases in which as healthy cells are damaged, the whole body is in a state of stress and experiences weakened immunity. This condition must be tackled at any cost and the therapy must be supported. The destruction of cells and tissue as a result of chemotherapy or radiotherapy leads to cellular stress response and secondary intoxication.

The following side effect have been reported:

  • weakened immunity and debilitated protective mechanisms, heightening the risk of rapid viral and bacterial infections;
  • non-specific complaints such as malaise and muscle and joint pain, general weakness, loss of appetite;
  • skin problems on large body surfaces of bacterial, viral or allergic origin;
  • anaemic conditions as a result of iron deficiency;
  • risk of thrombus formation, cardiovascular disorders, retention of fluids and tendency to oedema.

Destroying cancer cells with chemotherapy sometimes leads to the death of non-mutated healthy cells. Tumours, whose objective is to spread across new areas, often behave aggressively and kill normal cells in order to invade new territories. Keeping cells alive and well-functioning is essential for preventing cancer from spreading.