Oral Chemotherapy–Xeloda

There are many types of chemotherapy. Oral chemotherapy is simply chemo in liquid or pill form. It’s as strong as other forms of chemo and works just as well; it’s also convenient, in the sense that it can be taken at home. Check to make sure your insurance plan covers the cost, since oral chemo can often be more costly than chemo taken intravenously.

One common form of oral chemotherapy is Xeloda. In very simple terms, here’s how Xeloda works: Cancer cells divide rapidly, unchecked by the normal controls that limit cell division. Xeloda targets these fast dividing cancer cells and kills them by halting cell division. If the cells are unable to divide, they die. 

Xeloda and some other forms of chemotherapy are most effective at killing cells that are rapidly dividing, causing tumors to shrink.  Unfortunately, some healthy cells in the body also divide rapidly. Xeloda cannot tell the difference between fast-dividing cancer cells and fast-dividing healthy cells. The normal cells affected by chemo in most instances will grow back and be healthy but, in the meantime, side effects can occur.  The normal cells most commonly affected by chemotherapy are the blood cells, the cells in the mouth, the stomach and bowel, and the hair follicles—resulting in low blood counts, mouth sores, nausea, diarrhea, and/or hair loss. 

I was on Xeloda for close to six months. The most serous side effect I had was hand-foot syndrome. This is when the palms of the hands and soles of the feet become red and swollen. The skin cracks and blisters. The condition can become serious and require a break from Xeloda in order for the sores to heal. Here is more information on hand-foot syndrome and some graphic photos of the condition.

In my personal journey, I had three issues complicating my cancer treatment—the size of my tumor load, my anemia, and my fast metabolism. In my case, low-dose chemo was recommended by my naturopath oncologist and the medical team at Angeles Hospital, where I received my immunotherapy. The idea was to get my tumor load down, so that another round of immunotherapy could be more effective. Ultimately I was not able to receive low-dose chemo in the U.S., so I chose a gentler full-dose chemo—Xeloda. Xeloda is administered two weeks on the medication followed by a one-week break to allow the body to recover. I had a strong positive reaction to Xeloda. My tumor load decreased significantly and my red blood count increased to the point where I was no longer anemic.

For Further Exploration:

Xeloda Care Tips (on Breast Cancer Discussion Board)


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