July 18th, 2014
Chemotherapy is used to help treat cancer. It uses certain types of drugs to help prevent the spread of cancer by killing cancer cells or slowing their growth. It can also be used to help treat some of the symptoms of cancer or problems caused when cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is often part of a treatment plan that may include surgery and radiation therapy. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is given before surgery and is used to shrink a tumor so that it can be removed with less injury to surrounding tissues. Adjuvant chemotherapy is given following your resection and breast reconstruction surgery or radiation and is used to help destroy any cancer cells that are left behind at the time of surgery. Additionally, chemotherapy can be used if your cancer returns.
Cancer develops when changes occur in a normal cell to cause it to begin to grow out of control. Chemotherapy works by targeting certain phases of a cell’s growth cycle to disrupt this process. To maximize this process your treatment is likely to use more than one chemotherapy drug. This is called combination chemotherapy. Side effects from chemotherapy occur because the drugs cannot distinguish between cancer cells reproducing and normal cells reproducing to replace older cells. During chemotherapy the cells most likely to be damaged are those that are growing rapidly. These include the cells of your bone marrow which can lead to anemia or problems with bleeding and your white blood cells which can lead to a problem called immunosuppression which may make you more prone to developing and having difficulty fighting infection. Chemotherapy can also affect the cells within your hair follicles responsible for producing your hair and this explains the hair loss which may occur. Additionally, cells lining the digestive and reproductive systems can be affected.
Chemotherapy affects people differently. Some will be able to continue work or school and continue with their normal routines. For others, side effects can be quite limiting and may force you to adjust your routine or the timing that the therapy is given.
If you are experiencing fatigue or other side effects from chemotherapy, there are federal and state laws which may require your employer to accommodate you regarding your work schedule during your treatment. A good resource for this information is the American Cancer Society which can be reached at 1-800-227-2345,
For more information about chemotherapy and how it may impact breast reconstruction I invite you to schedule a consultation with me. Please feel free to contact our office at (972) 566-3939 if you have any questions.