Oral Chemotherapy

 Oral chemotherapy is a cancer treatment wherein the chemotherapy drugs are taken by mouth by the patient. Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses chemotherapy drugs in various ways to treat  cancer and oral chemotherapy is one of administration techniques for the treatment. Oral chemotherapy drugs  are taken in the form of liquid, tablets or capsule. Oral chemotherapy also gives good results and works well like other  forms of chemotherapy administration.  In most cases, chemotherapy drugs are injected into the vein through an IV line. But,  many drugs are also available to be taken  orally which becomes very easy to use.  Patients can take it themselves by following the doctor’s instruction. Duration of chemotherapy treatment  depends on  the type of cancer the patient suffers from.   It also depends on the medicines, which are used in the chemotherapy treatment.

How to Start your Oral Chemotherapy?

Following are the points that one should discuss with their doctor before undergoing oral chemotherapy along with other points to be considered before the commencement of the treatment:

Oral Chemotherapy Treatment

  • Make sure that the drug, more than one is not having the same name.
  • The time, when you can take it.
  • Make sure that the directions for taking drugs are easy to follow.
  • If you are taking it with other drugs, vitamins, food, supplements, herbs or other treatments, then be cautious about its safety, for your health.
  • Method for the storage of drugs.
  • Are there any side effects by the drug you have taken? If yes then you should consult with your doctor.
  • Duration you need to take oral chemo.
  • If you miss dose, what should you do.
  • Is there any friend or family member, who will help you during the period of treatment, if you needed?
  • Will your doctor call you to know about the results of treatment you are having or how you are going with the chemo.
  • Find other health problems that will forget you to take oral chemo.

It is necessary to concern with your doctor about questions you have before you go to oral chemo.

How do you undergo oral chemotherapy?

Your doctor will give  you the exact instructions for taking chemotherapy medicine.  These instructions would include how and when to take the chemotherapy drugs. You have to take it exactly as the instructions given by your caretaker. Your doctor or caretaker must need to know about problems occurred due to chemotherapy medicine, so that he will change your treatment plans. The method of oral chemotherapy allows you to keep the level of drug constant in your body, which helps to kill the cancer cells. One must consult with the doctor if the drugs are not as effective or causes severe side effects. Also you may need to visit the  doctor at regular intervals  until you feel better and comfortable with oral chemotherapy.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy

There are many side effects of chemotherapy and one may have either one or more of these or none of them. Most of the common side effects are  short-term  and they go away  completely after the completion of the treatment. Some of these common side effects of  chemotherapy are as follows:

  • Hair loss: This is very common side effect occurred during chemotherapy treatment. Thickness of your hair reduces and ends in falling. It may happen anywhere on your body having hair. You will see these changes right after you begin chemotherapy or after several weeks later. However, this change is for short period because it grows back when you stop chemotherapy treatment.
  • Low Blood Count:  The number of blood cells which includes red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in the  body may change or drop when undergoing the  chemotherapy treatment. Low blood cell counts could cause anemia or make the patient more prone to bleeding and bruising
  • Diarrhea or Constipation: As chemotherapy treatment may also have ill effects on the intestine, the patient is at a greater risk of diarrhea or constipation. If a condition such as diarrhea does not subside within 24 hours then one must inform the doctor for advice.
  • Problems of Mouth, Gums and Throat: You may have sores in mouth and throat, when you are undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Also if you notice the white patches in your throat, you have to ask your doctor to prevent this.
  • Vomiting or Nausea: There may be vomiting and nausea during  chemotherapy period. You have to consult with your doctor and take medicines, which are specially made to these side effects.
  • Memory problems and Mood Changes: Patients tend to get confused or depressed when  undergoing chemo treatment. In this condition, it will be better if you talk with your friends, family, doctor and your caretaker, about the way you feel.
  • Fatigue: Tiredness or fatigue is another common side effect of chemotherapy. It may last for days, weeks or months.
  • Symptoms like Flu: Flu like symptoms may appear during chemotherapy treatment and may last for a few days.  These symptoms also include chills and  muscle or joint ache.
  • Infection: Chemotherapy also affects the healthy white blood cells and this increases the patient’s risk of infection.
  • Skin problems: The skin may become dry during the  chemotherapy treatment. There are other skin problems like rashes, redness, itching and skin becoming sensitive to sun rays. Also your nails may become pale and crack  during the period of treatment.
  • Other problems:  Menstruation cycle  may change or stop. It also causes vaginal dryness which may cause  pain or discomfort during  sexual intercourse. Women may also experience hot flashes and chemotherapy also poses some problems during pregnancy.

 Tests while undergoing  Chemotherapy
These tests help in determining the effectiveness of chemotherapy.   There may be different types of tests and treatments to determine the same and some of them are as follows:

  • Blood tests: For this test, blood is drawn from   the arm.  Blood tests are carried out in order to determine the count of blood cells in the body.
  • Chest X-ray: Chest X-ray helps the doctor in checking the functioning  of the  lungs and heart. It  also helps in finding out any  infection like pneumonia,   collapsed lungs and tumors.
  • CT scan: This is also called CAT. A special X-ray machine is used for it. First dye is given through an IV in your vein before taking the picture. The dye is given to get a better picture of cancer. However, some people may be allergic  to this dye.
  • Transfusion of blood: Blood transfusion is necessary if the blood cell counts are badly affected  by chemotherapy. One may seek  help from family members or friends with similar blood group. However, blood must be tested to avoid infection of other diseases like AIDS, West Nile Virus, hepatitis etc.
  • Other Tests: Your temperature, heartbeat, pulse and blood pressure is also checked for any other possible side effects.