Chemotherapy is a treatment using anti-cancer drugs. The aim is to destroy breast cancer cells. Cancer cells grow by dividing in a disorderly and uncontrolled way. Chemotherapy gets in the way of their ability to divide and grow.
Different chemotherapy drugs work in different ways and affect the cancer cells at different phases of their growth. This is why a combination of drugs is often used. Chemotherapy for breast cancer is usually given as a series of treatments every two to four weeks over a period of several months. This can vary, depending on the type and stage of your cancer, your general health and the combination of drugs used.
as suggested by Breast Cancer Care (2015) the period between each treatment gives your body time to recover from any short-term side effects. You’ll normally be given your treatment as an outpatient so you will be able to go home the same day. Before each course of chemotherapy begins you will have a blood test to ensure your blood cell levels are within safe limits. With some types of chemotherapy you may be given your first treatment as an inpatient and stay in hospital overnight.
Chemotherapy can be given in several ways. For breast cancer the drugs are usually given: into a vein (intravenously) by mouth (orally) as a tablet or capsule.
Side Effects include;
Effects on the blood
Hair loss and thinning
Sickness (nausea) and vomiting
Mouth and dental problems
Skin and nail changes
Other effects on your digestive system
(Breast Cancer Care 2015).
You will usually have chemotherapy as a day patient and go home after your treatment. You’ll then have a rest period for a few weeks before coming back for your next session. Most people have about six sessions of chemotherapy. You may have up to 8 treatment cycles. So a complete course of treatment can take up to 8 months.
as noted by Cancer Research UK (2014) Each time you start a new cycle of treatment, your treatment team will check your blood cell counts first. They need to do this to make sure you have recovered from your last chemotherapy treatment. If your blood cell levels are not high enough, your chemotherapy may be delayed for a few days.