What is 5FU Chemotherapy?
5-fluorouracil or 5fu chemotherapy, an older chemotherapy drug, has been used to treat various types of cancer such as colon, esophageal, breast, pancreas, ovarian, and skin. Medical oncologists typically administer 5fu chemotherapy to patients intravenously, either over the course of five days, once a week, or once every four weeks. This type of chemotherapy is also given in cream form if a patient has skin cancer.
The amount of 5fu chemotherapy a person gets depends on various factors. For instance, one’s weight, height, and the severity of the cancer will tend to determine how much of this type of chemotherapy is given. Also, regular blood tests will be given to keep track of the patient’s blood count, kidney, and liver functioning.
In terms of effectiveness, the extent to which the chemotherapy works depends on the ability to stop rapid cell division. Similar to other chemotherapies, 5fu chemotherapy works by stopping the rapid cell division that is a hallmark symptom of cancer. Chemotherapy drugs function by causing damage to the DNA or RNA that communicates to a cell how it should replicate itself during the process of cell division. Very simply, if cells cannot divide, cells will die. If cancer cells die, tumors will shrink.
Of course, one of the problems with the chemotherapy is that the therapy cannot distinguish between cancer cells and normal cells. For example, treatment with 5fu chemotherapy will not only impact cancer cells but will also impact normal cells such as blood cells, stomach cells, bowel cells, and mouth cells. As a result, there are side effects such as low blood count, hair loss, diarrhea, stomach pain, and increased sensitivity to sunlight.
Also, of note, some patients may have a deficiency of the dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD) enzyme. This particular enzyme is important because it metabolizes and deactivates 5fu. If one has a deficiency of DPD, it results in extreme side effects even with a very small dose of 5fu chemotherapy.
While getting 5fu chemotherapy, it is important for patients to do things that will help them cope with the treatments. For example, it can be important to get sufficient amounts of rest, maintain a healthy diet, and avoid crowds where one may run into people with colds or other infections. Also important is drinking 3 quarts of fluid per 24 hours unless otherwise advised by the physician, putting ice chips into the mouth before and after 5fu treatments, reporting any side effects or problems to the physician, and avoiding driving or other activities until one’s response to this treatment is fully known.
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