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Chemotherapy and Hope for Tomorrow

November 2016

mobile chemotherapy unit

Cancer is such a common word today that it seems extraordinary that only a few decades ago it was rarely mentioned.

Diagnosis and treatment has progressed incredibly in recent years and today we know that there are many different types of cancers and they generally require different treatment.

So when someone says they have been recommended to undergo a course of chemotherapy, this is no one single treatment as each drug or sometimes a mixture of drugs will be prescribed individually for the patient and their specific situation.

Generally however we can talk about the overall theory of chemotherapy. It simply works by killing cells in the body that are in the process of splitting into two new cells.  The tissues in us are made up of billions of individual cells. Once these cells are grown, they become more static and generally only divide and multiply when they need to repair damage. When this happens they will split into two cells which will go on to split into four cells and so on.  Cancer can cause cells to keep on dividing until there is a mass of cells which can become a tumour.

Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing this growth of cancer cells. Cancer cells divide more often than normal cells and so therefore are more likely to be killed by chemotherapy. Modern chemotherapy drugs can attack the centre of the cell (its control nucleus) or can interrupt the chemical process involved in all cell division.

So far so good. But the drugs used to attack the cancer cells can also harm health cells that are dividing quickly. These can include cells that line your mouth and intestines or the cells that cause your hair to grow.

This is why chemotherapy can cause side effects.  Everyone is different and their reactions can be very varied. Some cope with it with minimal affect on their lives; others find it very challenging. Common side effects include tiredness and weakness, feeling and being sick and hair loss. It can also reduce the body’s ability to fight infection. Today anti-sickness, antibiotics and other additional medication is sometimes prescribed to help with the side effects.

we are macmillan cancer support

To find out more about a specific drug prescribed for a cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support have an excellent facility on their website.

Depending on the chemotherapy being used, it can be given by an injection into the bloodstream; through a drip into the bloodstream; or by tablets and capsules. A very few can sometimes take their tablets at home but more often than not, patients have to attend a specialist hospital unit where they have to spend a few hours having chemotherapy.

This is usually given in cycles with treatment being followed by a rest period. While cycles can be quite short, they are usually a week or up to four weeks apart. Often treatment comprises a cycle of four or six treatments; but with new chemotherapy drugs being developed all the time, there is no set pattern for all cancers.


hope for tomorrow

Hope for Tomorrow


Around 100,000 people have chemotherapy each year in the UK and for some attending a specialist hospital for their treatment can be one more big problem, especially if it involves long expensive  and time consuming journeys.

Now there is a little known but so worthwhile charity called Hope for Tomorrow, a privately funded organisation that brings cancer treatment closer to patients’ homes. Through their mobile chemotherapy units, the charity can visit up to five locations each week per unit to give treatments, seeing between 12 and 18 patients each day.

At the moment Hope for Tomorrow is fundraising to buy its twelfth Mobile Chemotherapy Unit. This will cost around £260,000 to build and launch, including the provision of a Nurses Support Vehicle.

Find out more, including locations where the units are visiting, at Hope for Tomorrow.


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