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.