Chemotherapy and hormone therapy

Mathilde Regnault
04/21/2017
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Of all the classic cancer treatments, chemotherapy is used very frequently. Together with hormone therapy and targeted therapies, it constitutes an increasingly effective therapeutic arsenal.
Chimiotherapie et hormonotherapie à l'Institut Curie
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What is Chemotherapy?

The purpose of chemotherapy is to kill the cancerous cells. It may be prescribed:

  • As an adjuvant treatment once the tumour has been removed, to ensure that no cancerous cells remain.
  • As a neo-adjuvant treatment, to reduce the size of the tumour before surgery: this helps to limit potential after-effects linked to the surgery.
  • In the case of metastatic disease, to treat the whole organism.

There are many types of chemotherapy, which are used according to the characteristics of the cancer.

Chemotherapy is frequently administered intravenously. It is usually performed in the form of sessions lasting from a few minutes to several hours, in a day hospital. The sessions are repeated every two to three weeks.

Chemotherapy can also be administered orally in the form of a tablet, which can be taken at home.

Chemotherapies have one major drawback: they are unable to make a distinction between cancerous cells and healthy cells. They therefore destroy a large part of the rapidly renewed cells of the organism. This explains the many possible side effects, such as loss of hair, problems with the nails or skin, and nausea. Oftentimes, chemotherapy also causes a temporary decrease in the immune defences, so patients must therefore be given advice on how to react in case of infection.

 

What is Hormone therapy?

Some cancers, in particular various breast and prostate cancers, are sensitive to sex hormones, and the latter stimulate the growth of cancerous cells. By blocking the hormone receptor on these cancerous cells, they are prevented from proliferating.

Some side effects may arise, such as vaginal dryness or a drop in libido, but these are totally reversible when treatment has ended. Hormone therapy is usually very effective, in particular for the treatment of hormone-dependent breast cancers (almost three-quarters of all such cancers), for which it is often prescribed in addition to chemotherapy. It has caused a drop in mortality linked to breast cancer.

 

Care management at Institut Curie

The care team is particularly used to this type of treatment, and possesses all the necessary skills to optimise the prevention of side effects.

Multidisciplinary care is one of the most important aspects for cancer centres: from diagnosis to chemotherapy to surgery and/or radiotherapy, the various specialists work together for optimal cohesiveness of patient treatment.

Institut Curie has developed a whole range of supportive care aimed at helping patients to get the most out of life during this difficult period and to better tolerate the side effects linked to chemotherapy. It offers consultations on nutrition, addictology and psychology, aesthetic workshops, relaxation courses and more, which have direct benefits regarding a patient’s recovery.