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There are two types of cancer treatment:
- Local therapy: Treatments directed at the cancerous anatomic areas, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and hyperthermia therapy.
- Systemic therapy: The use of drugs, introduced into the blood stream, and therefore in principle is able to address cancer at any anatomic location in the body, e.g., hormone therapy and chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is a type of systemic treatment for cancer which uses cytotoxic drugs, i.e., intracellular poisons, to shrink cancerous tumors by inhibiting mitosis, the process of cell division, eventually leading to cell death. The problem is the cytotoxic drugs don’t just kill cancer cells but also damage normal cells, especially cells that divide rapidly and are thus sensitive to anti-mitotic drugs: cells in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles. This results in the most common side-effects of chemotherapy: myelosuppression (decreased production of blood cells, hence also immunosuppression), mucositis (inflammation of…
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