What is Combination Chemotherapy?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Combination chemotherapy is in most ways the same as more conventional chemotherapy. Medications are given to patients intravenously, but in the case of combination chemotherapy, more than one drug is given as one time. This cocktail of drugs is sometimes more effective at treating certain cancers, but the likelihood of harsh side effects is also increased with more than one medication being given.

Chemotherapy involves the use of medications or chemicals in the hopes of halting cancer growth and of killing cancer cells. It is, by far, one of the most challenging treatments for patients to undergo because there are a wide range of side effects. Additionally, although chemotherapy is capable of killing cancerous cells, it cannot differentiate between cells that are and are not cancerous. This means that healthy cells are also destroyed in the process of treatment, and patients are often low on red and white blood cells.

Side effects of combination chemotherapy include a reduction in blood cell formation, which often leads to things like fatigue and a compromised immune system. This can lead to an increased risk in developing other types of illnesses and infections, so contact with other people should be limited. An inflammation of the digestive tract may also occur, resulting in vomiting and other gastrointestinal upset. Hair loss is also a common occurrence.


Dosages for combination chemotherapy must be chosen carefully. If not enough medication is used, then tumor growth will likely not be inhibited because cancerous cells are generally hard to contain. Too much medication, on the other hand, can cause side effects too extreme for patients to withstand. Doctors closely monitor patients to determine the treatment’s effectiveness and toxicity levels.

Although the majority of combination chemotherapy treatments are administered intravenously, there are cases where oral or injected therapies may be used. Medications that are injected are usually used to deliver high doses of drugs to a particular area, namely the site of a large tumor. Additional medications may also be used intravenously throughout the rest of the body.

In some cases in which prolonged or frequent combination chemotherapy is needed, tubes or lines may be surgically inserted into the patient’s body to prevent infections that are associated with continuously reinserting IV lines. Since infections are a serious threat for a chemotherapy patient’s immune system, every precaution must be taken to prevent them. In the event that an infection does occur, antibiotics may be administered intravenously.



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Post 3

@pleonasm - The problem is that her children could possibly have felt worse if their mother had chosen not to fight for her life. The doctors wouldn't have put her on the combination chemotherapy if there hadn't been a chance that it could have worked. It sounds like she died fighting for her life, which is a legacy they can always remember.

I know it isn't a black and white situation and I don't blame people who choose a different path. But, I think I would prefer to fight to the end, and I hope the people around me would respect and support that choice.

Post 2

My aunt was put on combination chemotherapy as a last ditch effort to save her after she was diagnosed with some kind of stomach cancer. She had been in pain from the cancer before they put her on the drugs, but once she was on them she went downhill so rapidly it was heart breaking to see.

I've never been able to understand before why people would choose not to take chemotherapy, and instead just let the cancer take them, but in this case I almost wish she had picked that option.

And after all the pain and distress of the chemotherapy side effects, she passed away anyway. It was just awful, especially for her children. Unfortunately there are no good options when it comes to cancer.

Post 1

I had given blood before, but I didn't realize that it went to patients who are on chemotherapy until my mother had to have some. I felt completely helpless at first, but when they told me we had matching blood types, I could at least do a little something to contribute.

To some extent I think the doctors had me donate just so I could feel that relief of being able to do something, anything to help her out. She did eventually go into remission, but the combination chemotherapy regimen put her through terrible stress before that happened.

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