Cancer Treatments: Chemotherapy
Commonly asked questions about chemotherapy:
- What is chemotherapy?
- What type of cancer is chemotherapy used for?
- When is chemotherapy used?
- What are chemotherapy side effects?
- What drugs are used in chemotherapy?
What Is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is one of the most well-known cancer treatment options and is utilized by over 650,000 cancer patients every year. The treatment itself includes a powerful drug or drug combination designed to target the rapidly growing cancer cells and destroy them.
The drug or drug combination can be administered through injection or oral medication while in a hospital, doctor’s office, clinic, outpatient unit, or home if the conditions are appropriate. There is no standard treatment period for chemotherapy treatments as the requirements to treat the cancer will depend on the specifics of each instance of cancer.
However, regardless of how long the treatment lasts, it will be conducted in intervals referred to as “cycles.” Cycles are comprised of a period of treatment and the period of rest that comes after.
What Type Of Cancer Is Chemotherapy Used For?
The exact form is dependent on the type of cancer being treated. Because different areas affected by cancer may have different roles in the body and would thus be effected by drugs differently, chemotherapy drugs are designed to be used for specific forms of cancer.
It is important to consult with a qualified team of doctors prior to pursuing any form of chemotherapy to ensure that the drug combination is effective for the specific form of cancer. While some cancers are exceptionally sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy, there are other forms of cancer that are able to resist the treatment’s effects better than others.
Cancers that chemotherapy can be used to treat include:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma
- Bladder Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Colon Cancer
- Endometrial Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Melanoma Skin Cancer
- Ovarian Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- Stomach Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
When Is Chemotherapy Used?
The medical community utilizes chemotherapy in a variety of cancer-related situations both alone and in conjunction with another treatment method. However, chemotherapy used with another method is by far the most common way the treatment is used. The most common combination includes cancer form specific surgery, radiation therapy, and biological therapy.
Specific situations in which chemotherapy may be used includes:
- Decreasing The Size Of A Tumor (Pre-Surgery/Radiation)
- Cleanse The Body Of Any Remaining Cancer Cells (Post-Surgery/Radiation)
- Increase Efficacy Of Radiation Or Biological Therapy
- Combat Recurrent or Metastatic Cancer
What Are Chemotherapy Side Effects?
In chemotherapy drugs targeting fast growing cells, the treatment is effective at combating cancerous cells but also tend to affect non-cancerous fast growing cells that the body needs. In damaging healthy cells of the body, it may cause various side effects in those who undergo the treatment.
These side effects come from white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, hair follicle cells, and cells lining the stomach suffering damage caused by the chemotherapy drug(s). While some types of chemotherapy may effect other bodily functions, the aforementioned cells are the ones most commonly effected.
In damaging these cells, chemotherapy can cause the body to suffer from several serious health side effects including:
- Serious Infection (Neutropenia/Low White Blood Cell Count)
- Fatigue (Anemia/Low Red Blood Cell Count)
- Chest Pain (Anemia/Low Red Blood Cell Count)
- Bruising (Thrombocytopenia/Low Platelet Cell Count)
- Bleeding (Thrombocytopenia/Low Platelet Cell Count)
- Hair Loss (Alopecia)
- Vomiting (Stomach Cell Damage)
- Diarrhea (Stomach Cell Damage)
Most side effects triggered by chemotherapy treatment dissipate once the treatment has ended, as cells within the body are once again able to grow and repair themselves as they normally would. In some cases long-term side effects regarding heart damage, nerve damage, or infertility have been reported in chemotherapy users, although they are not common.
Not all chemotherapy users will suffer from all of these side effects and in some uncommon cases can avoid them altogether. If a cancer medical team determines that an individual may be exceptionally vulnerable to side effects, they may prescribe the individual medication that combats the detrimental effects chemotherapy has on various cell populations within the body.
Zofran is one of the drugs that may be prescribed to a cancer patient undergoing chemo and suffering from treatment related health complications. The drug is used to treat the nausea that may set in as chemotherapy drugs begin attacking the cells that make up the stomach’s lining. While the drug is very effective in preventing nausea, it is regularly associated with birth defects when used by pregnant women.
What are the Criteria for Filing a Zofran Lawsuit?
Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, Zofran (ondansetron) was approved to treat nausea during chemotherapy and following surgery.
Zofran (ondansetron) works by blocking serotonin in the areas of the brain that trigger nausea and vomiting.
Between 2002 and 2004, GSK began promoting Zofran off-label for the treatment of morning sickness during pregnancy, despite the fact the drug has not been approved for pregnant women and there have been no well controlled studies in pregnant women.
The FDA has received nearly 500 reports of birth defects linked to Zofran. Birth defect risks include cleft palate and septal heart defects.
What Drugs Are Used In Chemotherapy?
With over 100 documented forms of cancer able to effect various areas of the human body, there is a wide range of drugs used to provide individuals with the chemotherapy treatment they need.
Many of these drugs, when used correctly, are very effective at slowing or halting the growth of cancerous cells in the effected area of the body.
Some of the most common drugs used in chemotherapy include:
Although these are some of the more notable drugs used, there are dozens of others that may be used by a doctor to treat cancer. One of the drugs not listed but is frequently brought up in the medical community is Taxotere.
Taxotere (docetaxel) is a chemotherapy drug that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and has been marketed by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis. The drug itself has only been approved for use in treatment efforts for the following cancers.
- Gastric Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Head/Neck Cancer
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Although chemotherapy regularly leads to temporary hair loss, it has been discovered that Taxotere may trigger irreparable hair loss in some users. This has led to hundreds of consumers express concern about the drug and preference for their medical professionals to use alternative options that do not trigger permanent hair loss.
What are the Criteria for Filing a Taxotere Lawsuit?
Taxotere (docetaxel) is a chemotherapy drug approved in the treatment of breast cancer along with other forms of cancer. It is administered intravenously through a vein, and is a member of a family of drugs called taxanes.
In 2007, manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis issued a press release touting the efficacy of Taxotere based on a clinical study. However, Sanofi-Aventis failed to inform the FDA, health care providers, and the public that permanent hair loss was observed in a number of the patients taking Taxotere.
In December 2015, the FDA announced it had ordered Sanofi-Aventis to change Taxotere’s label to warn patients of the risk of permanent hair loss. While hair loss during chemotherapy is expected, patients undergoing chemotherapy with Taxotere were not warned they could potentially experience permanent hair loss.
Permanent hair loss is an extremely debilitating condition, especially for women. We are currently investigating claims for women who suffered permanent hair loss following chemotherapy with Taxotere for breast cancer.