A neoplasm is a tumor or growth, which may be cancerous in some cases, and something which is described as neoplastic is something which concerns a growth or cancer. Antineoplastic chemotherapy, commonly referred to as chemotherapy, or chemo for short, consists of drug treatments which act against cancer. The treatments often use antineoplastic drugs in combination. This type of chemotherapy may be used instead of, or as well as, other cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and surgery. Most often, drugs are given into a vein, but they could also be injected into muscles or under skin and occasionally taken as tablets.
Cancer arises when cells become abnormal and begin to multiply in an unregulated manner. Most of the drugs used in antineoplastic chemotherapy target cells at different phases of the cell cycle during which they divide and multiply. It may be used to cure cancer, to control it, to relieve symptoms or to shrink tumors before surgery or radiotherapy.
Although chemotherapy drugs affect normal cells, cancer cells divide more quickly than ordinary cells, so they are affected to a greater extent. The aim is for each dose of chemotherapy to kill off more cells than are able to regrow before the next treatment cycle. Antineoplastic chemotherapy is normally given in cycles which correspond to the type of cells involved, their division rate and the point during the cell cycle at which a particular drug acts.
Complications of antineoplastic chemotherapy arise because of the drugs' effects on normal cells. Side effects vary according to the drug involved, and they may occur during treatment, immediately after, or only when treatment has continued for some time. It is possible for adverse effects to continue for a while after antineoplastic chemotherapy has finished. Most minor side effects can be treated but serious complications may need immediate attention. Symptoms such as a high temperature, breathing difficulties, unusual bleeding, or severe diarrhea and vomiting may need treating urgently.
Tiredness, nausea, loss of appetite, anemia and hair loss are all common side effects of antineoplastic chemotherapy. Taste changes, sore mouth, constipation and dry skin are other problems which can be associated with cancer treatment. Complications vary because different antineoplastic drugs are associated with different possible side effects. As individuals react differently to chemotherapy, not everyone will experience all of these symptoms and some people will not have any of them. In most cases, problems are temporary and go away when treatment ends.