Adjuvant Chemotherapy and Its Need


Chemotherapy is used to treat many types of cancer. Adjuvant chemotherapy is when you get chemo after the primary treatment, usually surgery. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at both adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy, when they’re typically used, and why your doctor might recommend one over the other.

Adjuvant chemotherapy

Adjuvant therapy is any type of therapy that follows the primary treatment. So, adjuvant chemotherapy takes place after you’ve had first-line treatment, such as surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. The main goal of adjuvant chemotherapy is to lower the chance that the cancer will return, and to improve the outcome of first-line treatment. Sometimes cancer cells can be left behind after surgery. It’s also possible that cancer cells may be circulating in your bloodstream or lymphatic system.

The traveling cancer cells don’t show up on imaging tests. Without treatment, they can find their way to distant organs to form new tumors. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment. Chemo drugs attack rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, throughout your body. It’s also important to know that chemo drugs can destroy healthy cells too because traditional chemotherapy does not specifically only target cancer cells. But the chemotherapy treatment may help lower the risk that the cancer cells will spread to distant organs. Your doctor will work with you to monitor your treatment experience.

Your doctor may recommend adjuvant chemotherapy if:

  • you have a particular type of cancer or carry certain biomarkers that are known to respond well to chemotherapy drugs
  • you carry specific genetic mutations that carry a high risk of cancer recurrence
  • during surgery, cancer cells were found in your lymph nodes
  • your cancer is not positive for hormone receptors, making hormone therapy ineffective
  • you have a later stage cancer

Adjuvant therapies are frequently used to treat the following cancers:

  • breast
  • lung
  • colon

Even so, there are individual factors that guide the decision to use adjuvant chemotherapy. But not all people with stage 2 colon cancer get the same benefit. In stage 2 colon cancer, the use of adjuvant chemo may depend on certain biomarkers. All these factors must be considered when deciding if adjuvant chemo is likely to be beneficial.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy means that chemo takes place before the main treatment. The goal is to improve the likelihood that the main treatment, usually surgery or radiation therapy, will be successful.

As with adjuvant chemotherapy, there are many factors involved in choosing the timing of neoadjuvant chemo. The primary tumor is large or pressing on vital organs, which can make surgery complicated and risky. Chemo may be able to shrink the tumor first so it’s less risky to remove. There’s a chance that cancer cells have broken away from the primary tumor. Any complications from surgery can delay the start of adjuvant chemo. Starting with chemo can prevent tumors from developing in distant organs. Doing chemo first can help doctors see how effective it is. That can be factored into a long-term treatment plan.

Side effects of adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemotherapy

No matter when you get it, there are many potential side effects to chemotherapy. These side effects can vary quite a bit from one chemo drug to another. Chemo drugs work by attacking fast-growing cells, like cancer cells. But some healthy cells are fast-growing, too. These healthy cells can get damaged in the process. This can cause side effects. Some of them are:

  • nausea, vomiting
  • fatigue
  • hair loss
  • bruising and bleeding easily
  • mouth sores, dry mouth
  • infection
  • anemia
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

Everyone reacts differently to chemo. You typically won’t have all these side effects. Some chemo drugs can cause long-term side effects such as:

  • early menopause
  • nerve damage
  • heart, lung, or kidney damage

For more details go through: Archives in Cancer Research.

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Media Contact:

Allison Grey              

Managing Editor

Archives in Cancer Research