Understanding Chemotherapy

Overview
Chemotherapy, or Chemo for short, is a procedure that is commonly used to treat cancer in a patient. It can be performed before or after a surgery, and is designed to remove cancerous cells or tumors. The procedure can also be performed on an individual who is undergoing radiation therapy. Some doctors  use chemotherapy alone, depending on the severity of the cancer. 

Since the 1950s, chemotherapy has been used in the fight against cancer, and in many cases, it is successful in controlling or even curing cancer. No matter where it is located, cancer is a group or cluster of harmful cells that grow out of control and become abnormal. Depending on the forms of cancer, the human body is affected in various ways. Since there are many forms and stages of cancer, the type of chemotherapy a doctor determines for individual patients is based on his or her findings. 

Common Chemotherapy Treatment Procedure
Chemotherapy is taken in a variety of ways at different times. One form of chemotherapy is through a pill or liquid that can be taken at home according to doctor's orders. Chemotherapy treatments may also be given intravenously, most often at a clinic, hospital or doctor's office. However it is possible to obtain such treatments at home if arrangements are made through your personal health care provider. Many patients who undergo chemotherapy use the most common procedure, which is by way of an intravenous injection, or IV. This form of chemo is applied directly into the veins through a catheter or needle and will be performed and supervised by a health professional. 

The frequency of chemotherapy sessions or treatments depends on the discretion of the doctor and the stage of cancer a patient has been diagnosed with. Chemo can be taken  once a day, every week or once or twice a month depending on what is needed. The duration of chemotherapy also depends on what type of cancer a patient has, as well as the response to treatment and any recommended lengths of time determined by an oncologist (cancer specialist) in order to be cancer free or go into remission. 

Some patients feel side effects due to chemotherapy drugs, including nausea. Depending on what type of cancer a patient has, different people experience different side effects. However, common drugs in use today have alleviated many of the side effects of chemotherapy treatments experienced by patients even a decade ago. Because chemotherapy kills cancer cells affecting certain parts of the body, hair loss, bruising, fatigue,  dry mouth or skin, vomiting and diarrhea are some common side effects, many of which may be treated by new drugs on the market. 
 
Benefits of Chemotherapy Treatments
The benefits of chemotherapy far outweigh side effects it may cause. Since it is one of the most effective ways of killing cancer cells, the chances for survival become much higher following a course of chemo, sometimes in combination with surgery or other drug treatments.
 
Cost of Chemotherapy Treatments
The cost of chemotherapy depends on many factors, including what type of cancer is being treated, how long a patient needs to undergo the treatment and how often it is needed. If a patient is in the United States, many health insurance options help pay for chemotherapy, however for those who are not fortunate to have health insurance, a social worker in the hospital would be able to help set a patient up with government assistance programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, if they are eligible. Cancer treatment of any kind is very expensive, and in the United States cant runs anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 a month depending on the drug and intake method. In Thailand, monthly costs run from $1,000 a month, while in India, costs average about $1,200 per month. 

Choosing a Doctor 
As with any surgery or treatment, finding a quality cancer center is ideal to obtaining the best treatment available. Make sure that all cancer centers are accredited and meet high standards of care and state and federal requirements. All doctor, oncologists and staff should be knowledgeable in the type of cancer a patient is suffering from. Choose a facility that has experience with cancer patients, and seek a second opinion for treatments from other cancer specialists if desired. Needless to say, any cancer facility and its staff should be certified and educated in all forms of treatment offered at that facility.