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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses medications called cytostatics. Cytostatics inhibit cell division and so are also responsible for inhibiting the growth of tumors. Because the tumor cells are killed, this reduces the total number of cancer cells. To do this as effectively as possible, your child may be given several types of cytostatics in different combinations. The protocol states exactly which cytostatics your child should receive and when. If necessary, the doctor may decide to follow a different schedule or to use a different combination of medications.

Chemotherapy is administered in the form of drinks, pills, capsules, an IV drip(infusion) or an injection. Chemotherapy can also be administered via a lumbar puncture. The latter is to prevent the cancer cells from spreading to the cerebral fluid.


Preparations

To safely administer chemotherapy via an IV drip, medical staff use a Fully Implantable Delivery System (Dutch abbreviation: VIT), a central venous line or a PICC line. These systems allow cytostatics to be administered or blood to be taken without having to repeatedly search for a blood vessel. If your child receives a lumbar puncture under light anesthesia, he/she must not have any food or drink in the morning according to the agreements made for the anesthesia  


Treatment

As previously indicated, chemotherapy is administered via pills, drinks, capsules, an IV drip or an injection. In principle, the nurse will administer the chemotherapy. There is one exception: in case of an IV drip in the hand or arm, the oncologist must administer vincristine. Vincristine is an anti-cancer medication. 

The duration of the chemotherapy depends on the treatment regimen. It can range from a syringe that is directly injected to a treatment regimen that lasts for a few days.


Aftercare

In addition to the desired effect on the tumor cells, cytostatics may also cause side effects. Cytostatics can also affect the mucous membranes, the skin and the hair. Possible side effects include nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, a sore mouth, a change in taste, dry skin and hair loss. 

Your child will also be more susceptible to infections due to having a weakened immune system and a shortage of blood cells and platelets. Although these side effects disappear once the treatment is finished, they are very unpleasant and can dramatically impact your child's life. Often, supportive treatment is required in the form of antibiotics, medication for nausea and fungal infections, extra thorough oral care or a blood (platelet) transfusion.

The side effects for each type of cytostatic are listed on the medication charts in the diary's agenda. Are you missing medication charts? If so, ask the nurse for the missing medication charts.