How the Drugs That Treat Cancer Work

treatment

Cancer is a name for many different conditions that both share similar characteristics of being caused by what is known as ‘cancerous cells‘. Cancerous cells are cells that have started to reproduce uncontrollably due to mutations in the cells that occur due to various types of damage such as smoking, sun damage, obesity, and also due to genetic inheritance. In this article, we are going to be helping you understand how the drugs that treat cancer work.

 

Every Chemotherapy Drug Is Different

There are over 200 different types of cancer that affect different parts of our bodies such as our brain, blood, lungs, and breasts (if you are a woman). Due to this, there are also a very large variety of cancer drugs, also known as chemotherapy drugs. These forms of cancer treatment work in a variety of ways which can be specialized to tackle the different forms of the illness. As well as different stages of cancer, the stages of cancer range from 0 to 4 with stage 4 cancer being the most serious stage which is used to represent the fact that cancer has spread to other organs.

4 stages

 

Intake Frequency Depends on Cancer

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Moreover, there will be differences in how often you will be taking your cancer treatment, this will depend on multiple factors such as the type of medication you are taking, the strength of the medication, cancer you are treating as well as the stage of cancer. So the frequency of the intake may vary from every day to every couple of days to all the ways to weeks and months.

Many cancer drugs are taken in cycles that include rest periods, for example, you will take the medication every two weeks with a one week resting period in between. This is actually very important as cancer drugs often have side effects such as fatigue, nausea, and constipation so it is important to allow the body of the patient to recover.

 

Collateral Damage

collateral damage

Cells are very small particles that act as the basic building blocks of our bodies, most cells are a few nanometers in size with one nanometer being around 100 million times smaller than a centimeter. Therefore there will be a very high chance of collateral damage, which means that some healthy cells will be killed off along with the cancerous cells.

With modern medicine there it is really hard to prevent such collateral damage, however, it is nothing to really worry about as the healthy cells will over time be replaced. However, it is very important to kill all of the cancer cells as soon as possible, as cancer cells generally multiply much faster than healthy cells.

 

Gene Modification

Some cancer drugs will work by modifying the DNA in your genes, DNA is the basic building block of your genes with each DNA pair being located within a cell. The DNA tells each cell how to behave, like an instruction manual if you like. The genes are a group of DNA pairs, when you alter the genes you are able to change how certain cells behave which is important as cancer in the first place is caused by a malfunction of the genes in a cell that leads it to essentially go rogue and start reproducing wildly.

gene modification

This is very dangerous as when those cells have reproduced in large amounts, they become a tumor that will require a lot of energy and nutrients which your body will naturally redirect to them rather than to other important organs. Furthermore, cancer can damage key organs that you need for survival such as the brain, kidneys, and lungs.

Changing the genes of cancer cells will not make them act normal but it can instead stop them from reproducing which will make them much easier to treat and you do not have to worry about them spreading to other parts of your body.

 

Blood Vessels

blood vessels

It is also important to highlight in this article where we explain how the drugs that treat cancer work that there are also cancer treatments that try to inhibit blood vessel growth. Blood vessels will naturally connect to areas of the body that are growing thanks to signals that come in the form of hormones, this is an essential life process however it is not good when your blood vessels are connecting to your cancer tumor thus helping it to continue to grow. Medication is thankfully available that stops the production of such signals that tell your blood vessels to grow in a certain part of your body. Such medication is generally along with other cancer drugs.

 

Steroids May Be Required

side effects

Earlier in this article, we touched upon resting periods and why they are important in allowing the patients to recover from the side effects of cancer drugs. Related to this subject, are steroids that are taken in order to decrease the severity of side effects and in some cases prevent altogether. Steroids that are taken to deal with the side effects of cancer medication are often also known as ‘corticosteroids’. Steroids are often associated with bodybuilding, however, the steroids used in such a discipline are called anabolic steroids. A steroid is simply a man-made hormone that is used to trigger some kind of reaction from your body.

 

Testing Is Important

Cancer is a condition that usually cannot be seen or felt by touch, even if that happens to be the case in order to get an accurate idea of the progress of the treatment it is important to carry out a variety of types of tests. We have listed the type of testing that may go on below along with information about how it actually works.

testing

Physical Changes, a doctor that specializes in cancer known as an oncologist will look for any changes in your body which will signal how your treatment is growing. This may not seem very scientific or technical but in reality, it is, as it is looking out for symptoms and identifying what they may potentially mean.
Blood Tests, depending on the type of cancer that you are suffering from, such as for example leukemia or also known as blood cancer, you may have to take blood tests so that the doctors can keep track of the levels of cancer in your blood.
❸ Imaging Scans, such as a testing method is generally used to keep track of tumors, imaging scans are a collective name for a large variety of things such as X-rays, Ultrasound, and MRI scans.
❹ Fecal Samples, these are used for cancers that are in organs and areas where the feces are transported before being disposed of. It is similar to blood testing, as the oncologists will be calculating the levels of cancer cells in the sample.
❺ Endoscopy, this is a method of looking inside the body using a thin instrument known as an endoscope, it is generally used for looking inside the stomach, intestines, ear, and even the brain.

 

Metabolism

There is also a special type of drug known as antimetabolites that make cancer cells ask for less energy from your fat storage or food that you consume which will in turn lead to the cancer cells growing slower and also not reproducing. You can learn more about targeting cancer metabolism in the video that we have included below

 

Enzymes

Furthermore, there are cancer drugs that specifically target what is known as enzymes, they are protein found in most cells that help with chemical reactions. Therefore by targeting the enzymes in cancer cells you can stop the multiplying process of the cells and you can also reduce the chances of cancer coming back.

enzymes

 

Cancer Drugs Are Not the Only Solution

other ways

Cancer drugs are one of the few solutions that are available to cancer patients, the benefits of using cancer medication is that they cause less damage to the surrounding healthy cells. Your cancer doctor will analyze your current condition and the progress that you have made, and if they decide to they can refer you to another type of cancer treatment such as surgery to remove the tumor or targeted radiation treatment that also is used to kill off tumors and cancer cells. Moreover, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by not smoking, drinking alcohol, staying in the scorching sun for too long, and making sure that you keep a healthy BMI for your height.

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