Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is usually given to the patients in order to shrink the cancer mass and thus making it small for surgical removal. It is a novel mode of treatment to eradicate more advanced form of cancers. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is given before surgery and it primarily treats breast cancer, ovarian cancer and head and neck cancer. Giving chemotherapy prior to a surgery guarantees successful remission of the rudimentary tumor thereafter. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy clears the area surrounding the tumor thus making the point of operation clear. Most of the cancer tumors inflame the tissues surrounding them. Chemotherapy clears these inflammations thus making the site of surgery clear and operable. As Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer reduces the size of the tumor it becomes easier for the doctors to distinguish between a normal healthy tissue and a tumor. This reduces the amount of healthy tissues being removed out during surgery.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy makes the surgery easier and increases the chances of success. It is mostly used to treat the locally advanced breast cancer. The drugs most commonly used in Neoadjuvant chemotherapy are Cisplatin, Bleomycin, and 5-Fluorouracil.
Chemotherapy drugs curb the cellular growth of any rapidly dividing cell. Thus, in the process of chemotherapy treatment these drugs often end up destroying some normally functioning cells along with cancer cells. Some normal cells that are affected by chemotherapy include: Hair follicle cells, cells lining our skin, gastrointestinal cells and bone marrow cells. Some common side effects of Neoadjuvant chemotherapy include:
- Hair loss: Hair fall or baldness results post chemotherapy due to the damage caused to hair follicle cells
- Anemia: Anemia is an anomaly of reduced number of RBC Cells in the blood. This is caused by a depletion of the bone marrow stem cells by chemotherapy drugs
- Low Immunity: Low immunity and increased chance to catch infections is an aftermath of a drop in WBC count in the body
- Blood Platelets: Less number of blood platelets might cause bruising or bleeding even from a small cut
- Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting is the most common side reaction of chemotherapy. This could be controlled by administration of anti emetic or anti sickness drugs
- Low appetite and diarrhea: This occurs due to ruptured gastrointestinal cells
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing: Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing arises as a symptom of anemia as an anemic blood has low hemoglobin to carry ample oxygen to the lungs
You can also read more about the advantages and disadvantages of neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer.