Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given intravenously (injected into a vein) or, more recently, intraperitoneal administration has become popular because it is associated with a longer survival in patients with a very similar cancer, ovarian cancer. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy involves the administration of medicines directly into the abdomen through a catheter which is placed under the skin at the time of initial surgery, or shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, it has more immediate side effects than intravenous chemotherapy and therefore some patients prefer the more traditional intravenous administration. Intraperitoneal treatment is only given if optimal debulking surgery has been achieved. Either treatment may be administered in the doctor’s office, outpatient treatment areas of the hospital or, occasionally, as an inpatient.
Traditionally, intravenous chemotherapy is given on an every three-week schedule as an outpatient. Each treatment of chemotherapy is known as a cycle and initial treatment usually consists of six cycles. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is also given on an every three-week schedule for six cycles. But, each cycle is a little more involved as the patient might receive treatments on several days of the 21 day cycle compared to receiving treatments on only day 1 of the cycle if given intravenously.
The most commonly used chemotherapy medicines for PPC are the same as those used for ovarian cancer. These include one of the platinum-based medicines, Cisplatin or Carboplatin, as well as ataxane (Paclitaxel or Taxotere) in combination.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Each person responds to chemotherapy differently. Some people may have very few side effects while others experience several. Most side effects are temporary. They include:
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Increased chance of infection
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Hair loss