Oral Chemotherapy

Oral chemotherapy is a treatment against cancer. It is made by medication in pill, capsule, or liquid form that are carried throughout the body, destroying cancer cells in order to stop the tumors' growth. Find out more.
Oral Chemotherapy

Oral chemotherapy consists of the antineoplastic medication administration through the mouth, usually in the pill, capsule or liquid form. 

One of the great advantages of this chemotherapy is that it can be done at home, without the need for the patient to go to the hospital or clinic for each application. In addition, it does not require a vein application or catheter implant.

The doctor in charge of the treatment or the nurse guides the patient on how to take the medication, with indications such as schedules, whether it should be taken fasting, with specific foods or liquids, among other details.

Although this treatment is done at home, the monitoring of the patient’s evolution and the evaluation of adverse effects must be constant.

Types of oral chemotherapy

The most common types of oral chemotherapy agents are:

  • Ribociclib, palbociclib;
  • Anastrozole, letrozole, tamoxifen;
  • Cabepecitabine;
  • Erolitinib, gefitinib, osimertinib, crizotinib, alectinib;
  • Imatinib;
  • Abiraterone, enzalutamide, apalutamide;
  • Procarbazine, temozolamide; and
  • Sunitinib, pazopanib, axitinib

Applications and Indications for Oral Chemotherapy

Oral chemotherapy is recommended for the treatment of several types of cancer. In some cases, it completely replaces intravenous chemotherapy, while in others it only complements it. When given as monotherapy, it is usually the only ongoing treatment. 

Some examples of oral chemotherapy uses are kidney, breast, liver, brain, chronic myeloid leukemia, colon, and lung cancer. Only the doctor can evaluate each patient individually and make the decision whether this type of medication is pertinent to the treatment plan.

Routine with oral chemotherapy

It is of the greatest importance that the patient is committed to the schedule for taking its oral chemotherapy, following the recommendations regarding schedules and dosages to the letter.

That is because the medication may be less effective if a dose is missed or taken at the wrong schedule (at intervals that are too close or long). Using the wrong dose can also render the medication ineffective or lead to serious adverse events (in the case of overdose).

It is also worth pointing out that oral chemotherapy, carried out at home, is just as serious and effective as the one carried out in the clinic and in the hospital, with the same power of action. The difference is that the patient must take full responsibility for the schedules and doses, because at home there is no nurse or other professional to assist the patient. Therefore, the instructions must be strictly followed.

Handling and storage

Handling and storing oral chemotherapy safely is important because these drugs are very strong. Some tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after taking oral chemotherapy; 
  • Keep all pills or capsules whole;
  • Do not break, split, or crush the medication;
  • Keep the medication stored in its original packaging and away from places where food is handled;
  • Avoid storing them in the bathroom cabinet (due to the humidity) or near the window (where they are exposed to heat and sunlight);
  • Do not reuse the medicine packets for other purposes. When the medication runs out, throw away its container; and
  • Keep the medications out of the reach of children and pets.

Possible adverse effects and complications

Most people treated with oral chemotherapy report adverse effects. It is essential to report these to the doctor or nurse in charge of the chemotherapy sector of your treatment, as infections and other illnesses can be aggravated in a person undergoing this medication. 

 Some of the adverse effects that can arise during the use of oral chemo are:

  • Hair loss;
  • Changes in the skin
  • Mouth sores;
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Fatigue;
  • Nausea and/or vomiting; and
  • Diarrhea.

Adverse effects vary from patient to patient. In addition, the use of other medications along with chemotherapy can exacerbate them. Therefore, the professionals involved in the treatment must know all the medications the patient is taking, even if they are phytotherapeutics or natural.

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