One of the primary treatments for testicular cancer is chemotherapy, which involves the use of certain drugs to eradicate the cancer. The drugs used in chemotherapy come in a variety of forms such as intravenously, intra-muscular shots or even a pill. For testicular cancer, intravenous chemotherapy is the primary method of treatment.
Chemotherapy is a universal type of treatment for a variety of cancers. It’s systemic which means the drugs circulate through your body via the bloodstream “hunting” down the cancerous cells. When you have a form of testicular cancer that spreads to other areas of the body, chemotherapy is the best choice because of its systemic qualities. If your form of testicular cancer has not left the testicle, chemotherapy would likely not be the treatment of choice.
Types of Chemotherapy Drugs
There are several types of chemotherapy drugs and most of them work to directly attack and kill cancerous cells. Typically doctors will create a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs (usually two or more) because they are more effective together than a single one. When you visit with the doctor and talk about chemotherapy, you will likely here the names of such drugs as bleomycin, cisplatin, etoposide and ifosfamide. There are quite a few of them out there and doctors often have their favorite combinations which they have seen work most effectively.
There is a drug combination called PEB which uses cisplatin, bleomycin and etoposide and is often the first line of chemotherapy defense. Another drug combination called EP uses just he etoposide and cisplatin and is a popular cocktail as well. For more intensive treatment, doctors may use more than two or three chemotherapy drugs. And if the cancer is particular aggressive, stem cell transplants are another line of defense.
Side effects are common in chemotherapy because not only are the drugs combating the cancerous cells, they are affecting the healthy ones as well, thus the side effects. A small percentage of people do not exhibit any signs of a reaction. However a majority of testicular cancer patients do have at least a few side effects. The cells in your body that grow fast, like your digestive tract or hair follicles, are particular susceptible.
With chemotherapy, you can expect a lower immune function and must therefore be extra careful to avoid illness. Your body may have trouble warding off even the simplest of illnesses such as cold or flu. Because some blood cells grow fast, chemotherapy can affect your energy as well as cause bruising, even for the most minor of bumps. Other side effects that may occur early on in chemotherapy treatment include:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Lower appetite, vomiting, nausea, sores in the mouth, constipation, hair loss or even diarrhea.
These short term side effects of chemotherapy can be treated with traditional over the counter remedies and even some herbs. Your doctor will have plenty of advice on how to treat your symptoms. As for long term effects of chemotherapy, some of the drugs used have been known to cause kidney problems, sensitivity to temperature changes, hearing loss and nerve damage, just to name a few. You and your doctor will have to discuss these potential long term effects to decide which chemotherapy drug treatment options are the most beneficial to you and your testicular cancer and if the benefits far outweigh the risks.