What is Oral Chemotherapy?
Oral anticancer treatments (oral chemotherapy or oral targeted therapy) has been in use for quite some time now.It is used in patients with breast cancer, ovarian cancer, blood cancer, etc. Oral targeted therapy is a new method of treatment where the drugs act by blocking the certain biochemical pathways which are responsible for the proliferation of cancer cells. Targeted drugs kill cancer specific cells whereas chemotherapy also kills nonspecific cancer cells along with cancer cells.
The most commonly used medications used in oral chemotherapy are Tamoxifen, Anastrazole, Letrozole, Methotrexate, capecitabine etc. Being potent drugs, these are found to be as efficacious as intravenous chemotherapeutic drugs. The side effects shown by these medications are lesser as compared to intravenous route of administration.
The various advantages offered are as follows:
· Oral medications are convenient to handle
· Easy to take for patients as compared to injections.
· Reduces travel to hospital
· Less disruption of work and family schedule
· The overall cost of the treatment is reduced as unnecessary hospital admissions are eliminated.
· Better side effect profile
In addition to its advantages, every medicine has drawbacks, some of which are listed below:
· Lack of supervision
· Inconsistent absorption: The actual amount of drug that reaches blood circulation can never be accurately found as orally absorbed medications are affected by various factors. For e.g. The type of food patient has eaten and whether the patient is taking any antacid.
· The problem arises when the course of the medications are not done properly. Monitoring this is difficult as patients might stop taking medications because of the smallest of side effects. With injections, it is simpler to keep a record because they are administered in hospitals.
Like traditional chemotherapy, oral chemotherapy also requires some precautions. These drugs should be kept away from children, pets and other individuals to avoid accidental use. The pill box used for these should not be used for other medications. Always prefer to keep a chart to ensure proper dosing schedule and compliance. Always consult regarding food interactions with these medications. A missed dose can be taken if its within 6-8 hours of the dose, otherwise it should be skipped.
Oral chemotherapy also works to kill the cancer cells just like i.v. chemotherapy. It has its own set of advantages and efficacy and is a good option for patients having trouble visiting a hospital or not fit for tradional i.v. chemotherapy. However, it’s not an option for all cancers and all stages, so it’s important to ask your doctor about its efficacy and applicability in your condition.
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