Doctors prescribe chemotherapy to treat various types of cancer, such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. It is vital to assess the effectiveness of chemo to decide if treatment should continue.
Doctors often prescribe chemotherapy to treat various types of cancer. The type of chemo, frequency, and duration of treatment varies based on the specific type of cancer.
Physicians must also monitor someone undergoing chemotherapy to determine if the treatment is working. There are various signs and tests that indicate chemotherapy is working. Doctors may select from different tests to measure the cancer’s response to chemo.
The article below examines how doctors measure the effectiveness of chemotherapy, the tests they use, and how they define the response.
It is essential for doctors to know if a person’s chemotherapy is effective. If chemo is not effective, an individual may need to switch to a different type of chemotherapy or treatment.
Someone may have signs that indicate the effectiveness of chemo, such as a decrease in pain or other symptoms. However, the only definitive way to determine if chemotherapy is working involves doing follow-up tests that measure and assess cancer tumors and cells.
Tests to measure the effectiveness
Physicians use different tests to measure the effectiveness of chemotherapy. For some people, they may use a combination of tests, which may include:
- Blood tests: Doctors may order various types of blood tests to measure white and red blood cells, along with platelets. In some types of cancers, the blood counts may indicate the effectiveness of chemo.
- CT scan: A CT scan
creates imagesof the tissues, bones, and organs. It helps doctors determine the size, location, and shape of cancer. It can provide information on a decrease or increase in cancer.
- MRI scan: An MRI
also createspictures of the body. Doctors use it to determine tumor size and the tumor’s response to treatment.
- Tumor markers: Cancer cells produce substances called tumor markers. Tumor markers may increase, stay the same, or decrease in response to chemotherapy. Monitoring tumor markers in the blood may help determine the effectiveness of chemo.
How often healthcare professionals measure the effectiveness of chemotherapy may vary. There is no one standard timeframe to assess chemotherapy. For some people, a doctor may assess treatment if an individual has increased cancer symptoms.
In other instances, the doctor assesses whether chemo is working in the middle of treatment or at the end of the course of chemotherapy. They may also choose to assess the effectiveness
The frequency of assessment is based on individual circumstances and a doctor should discuss this as part of an individual’s treatment plan.
- Complete response: A complete response indicates no detectable evidence of cancer.
- Partial response: A partial response means cancer has decreased by a certain percentage, but some cancer remains.
- Stable disease: A stable disease indicates there is no decrease or increase in cancer. The amount of cancer remains the same.
- Progression: Disease progression means the amount or size of cancer has increased. This may indicate a spread to other areas of the body.
Some doctors may also use the
Everyone responds differently to chemotherapy and cancer treatment. In some people, chemo may work quickly. In others, it may take longer or not work at all.
In general, a course of chemotherapy often takes between 3–6 months. However, that may vary widely based on individual circumstances and cancer type.
The following are some questions people frequently ask about chemotherapy.
What happens to dead cancer cells?
When chemo or other treatment destroys cancer cells, they no longer multiply. Neutrophils and macrophages, which are immune sentinel cells,
Does no side effects mean chemo is not working?
Chemotherapy can cause various side effects, which vary and may depend on the following:
- a person’s health starting treatment
- the specific chemo drugs
- the length of treatment
However, according to the
To discover more evidence-based information and resources for cancer, visit our dedicated hub.
Doctors prescribe chemotherapy to treat many types of cancer. However, everyone responds differently to chemo. Doctors need to assess whether chemotherapy is working to decide if treatment should continue.
Tests to determine if chemo is effective include blood tests, CT scans, and MRIs. In some instances, doctors order more than one test to assess chemo’s effectiveness. A doctor may classify the response to chemo as a complete response, partial response, stable, or disease progression.
Individuals should discuss all treatment options and their potential effectiveness with a healthcare professional.