Several treatments are currently being used to treat breast cancer. Surgery is used in most cases of breast cancer, usually used to remove breast tumor. Radiation and chemotherapy are both used to treat breast cancer. Hormone therapy and targeted therapy are also commonly used to treat breast cancer.
When it comes to treating cancers, chemotherapy drugs have proven extremely effective in the long run. Most cancer patients undergo some form of chemotherapy, depending on the severity of their cancer. The cancer treatment of chemotherapy uses drugs called cytostatics to halt cancer cells uncontrollably dividing.
Chemotherapy is used in cancer treatment to accomplish a variety of goals. This leads to a differentiation between four common types of chemotherapy.
- Curative Chemotherapy: The goal of curative chemo is to eliminate all cancer cells from the body and achieve a permanent cure.
- Adjuvant chemotherapy: Adjuvant chemotherapy seeks out cancer cells that may be left in the body after surgery, but cannot be detected. It is a supportive therapy used to prevent recurrences
- Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: Neoadjuvant chemo is done before surgery as a way to shrink tumors that are too big to be directly operated on.
- Palliative chemotherapy: Palliative chemo is chemotherapy used to help relieve certain symptoms, slow down progress, and avoid complications of cancer cells that it is no longer possible to remove
There are a multitude of chemotherapy drugs available. These drugs can be divided into several commonly used groups of medication. The groups are divided based on how they work, their chemical structure, and their relationship to another drug. The commonly-used types of chemotherapy drugs are: alkylating agents, antimetabolites, antitumor antibiotics, Mitotic inhibitors and corticosteroids.
The group of chemotherapy drugs known as alkylating agents directly attack and damage DNA as a way to prevent cancer cells from reproducing. These drugs work in all phases of the cell cycle and development. Several cancers are treated with alkylating agents, including leukemia, lymphoma, sarcoma, multiple myeloma and lung, breast, and ovary cancer.
Some of the known alkylating agents are cyclophosphamide, carmustine, busulfan, temozolomide and altretamine.
Antimetabolites are a class of chemotherapy drugs that interfere with both DNA and RNA growth through substituting normal building blocks of RNA and DNA. Cells in the S phase of the cell cycle are attacked by this group of drugs. Antimetabolites are commonly used to treat leukemias, breast cancer, ovary cancer, and intestinal tract cancer. Some examples of antimetabolites include 5-fluorouracil, Capecitabine, Gemcitabine, and Pemetrexed
The most common group of antitumor antibiotics chemotherapy drugs are known as anthracyclines. Anthracyclines interfere with enzymes involved in DNA replication, working in all phases of the cell cycle, They are commonly used in the treatment of a variety of cancers. Popular examples of anthracyclines include daunorubicin, doxorubicin, epirubicin, and idarubicin. Other non-anthracycline antitumor antibiotics include actinomycin-D, bleomycin, and mitomycin-C.
Mitotic inhibitors are a group of chemotherapy drugs, usually derived from natural products, used to stop or inhibit enzymes from making proteins necessary from cell reproduction. These drugs work primarily during the M phase of the cell cycle, but can damage cells in all phases. Many cancers are treated with mitotic inhibitors, including breast, lung, myelomas, lymphomas, and leukemias. Common mitotic inhibitors include paclitaxel, ixabepilone, vincristine, and estramustine.
Steroids are natural hormones and hormone-like drugs that have proven effective in treating some types of cancers, along with other illnesses. They are considered a group of chemotherapy drugs when they are used to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Corticosteroids are commonly used to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by chemo and may also be used to prevent severe allergic reactions. These uses are not considered chemotherapy. Popular examples include prednisone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone.
Prolonged Use of Cancer Medications
In our previous post, we talked about some of the common forms of chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer patients. Many of the chemotherapy drugs discussed are used in combination together to treat a variety of different forms of cancer. While most chemotherapy drugs come with similar side effects- hair loss, anemia, nausea and vomiting, each drug has its own list of side effects and risks. Today, we will look at the side effects and risks of prolonged exposure to a few popular cancer-treating drugs.
When looking at common cancer treatments, we discussed five of the common forms of chemotherapy drugs: alkylating agents, antimetabolites, antitumor antibiotics, mitotic inhibitors, and corticosteroids. We will look at one of the commonly used chemotherapy drugs from of these groups.
Chemotherapy Drug : Cyclophosphamide
Cyclophosphamide is an alkylating agent chemotherapy drug, sold under the brand names of Cytoxan, Neosar and CTX. It is commonly used to treat lymphoma, leukemias, multiple myeloma, mycosis fungoides, neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, and cancers of the breast and ovary. Common side effects include increased risk of infection, hair loss or thinning, nausea, vomiting, mouth or lip sores, or diarrhea. Some patients also experience bleeding from bladdy with the appearance of blood in the urine, as well as short or long-term infertility. In rare cases, cyclophosphamide has risks of heart problems, kidney damage, heart damage, and scarring of the bladder and the lung tissues. It may also increase your long-term risk of getting a second type of cancer years after using the drug, such as leukemia or bladder cancer. However, this is a very rare risk. Prolonged use of cyclophosphamide can cause bone marrow suppression and possible failure, along with severe immunosuppression that may lead to serious infection.
Chemotherapy Drug : Fluorouracil
Fluorouracil, also referred to as 5-fluorouracil, 5-FU, or Adrucil, belongs to the anti-metabolites group of chemotherapy drugs. Several types of cancers benefit from the use of fluorouracil, including colon, rectum, head, neck and breast cancers. Commonly seen side effects include increased risk of infection, increased risk of bleeding, darkening of skins and nail beds, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, dry skin, and increased sensitivity to sun. In rare cases, fluorouracil has caused heart problems and a condition known as hand-foot syndrome.
Antibiotic Drug for Cancer Patients : Doxorubicin
Doxorubicin, also known as Adriamycin, is a commonly used antitumor antibiotic chemotherapy drug. It is currently used in the treatment of many cancers, including bladder, breast, head, neck, leukemia, liver, lung, lymphoma, prostate and thyroid. Doxorubicin most commonly causes nausea, vomiting, low blood counts, mouth sores and hair loss. With prolonged use of doxorubicin, there is a slight risk of developing a blood cancer (such as leukemia) years after taking it.
Chemotherapy Drug : Paclitaxel
Paclitaxel is a chemotherapy drug belonging to the mitotic inhibitor class. It is commonly sold under the brand names of Taxol, Onxol, or Paxene. Paclitaxel is used to treat breast, lung, and ovarian cancers, along with Kaposi sarcoma. Many patients experience the common side effects of low white blood cell count, mild allergic reaction, numbness or pain in the hands and feet, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and anemia. More serious risks from paclitaxel include nerve damage, peripheral neuropathy, and changes in heart rhythm.
Corticosteriod : Prednisone
Prednisone is a corticosteroid that is used both as a chemotherapy drug and an antiemetic drug in cancer patients. It may also be sold under the brand name of Deltasone or Prednisone Intensol. As a chemotherapy drug, it is used to help treat some leukemias, lymphomas, and other cancers in conjunction with other chemotherapy drugs. Prednisone is also used to prevent and treat allergic reactions, nausea and vomiting, and improve loss of appetite caused by chemotherapy drugs. Common side effects include increased appetite, trouble sleeping, upset stomach, weight gain, increased blood glucose levels and slowed wound healing. It can also cause immunosuppression, increasing the risk of infection. Possible long-term risks of prednisone include increased risk of cataracts, glaucoma, osteoporosis, fractures, loss of muscle mass, abnormal hair growth, thinning skin, acne, and a change in body fat distribution.