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28

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

®

Mycosis Fungoides, Version 1.2016

3

Overview of cancer treatments Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy, or “chemo,” includes drugs

that disrupt the life cycle of cancer cells. Some

chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells by damaging

their DNA or by disrupting the making of DNA. Other

drugs interfere with cell parts that are needed for

making new cells. Thus, no new cells are made to

replace dying cells.

Many chemotherapy drugs work when cells are in

an active growth phase. During the active growth

phase, cells grow and divide to form a new cell.

Chemotherapy drugs that disrupt the growth phase

work well for cancer cells that are growing and

dividing quickly. Other chemotherapy drugs work

whether cells are in a growth or resting phase.

Chemotherapy can kill both cancer and normal cells.

Some chemotherapy drugs can be applied directly

to skin lesions. Mechlorethamine (nitrogen mustard)

is a gel that is applied once a day. It may be used for

several months.

However, most chemotherapy drugs for mycosis

fungoides are not applied to the skin. Most are liquids

that are slowly injected into a vein. Some are pills.

Injected and oral drugs travel in your bloodstream to

treat cancer throughout your body.

Injected chemotherapy is given in cycles of treatment

days followed by days of rest. This allows your body

to recover before the next cycle. Cycles vary in length

depending on which drugs are used. Often, a cycle is

21 days long.

Chemotherapy for mycosis fungoides often consists

of just one drug. When only one drug is used, it is

called a single agent. Two or more drugs may be

used for advanced mycosis fungoides.

Side effects of chemotherapy

The reactions to chemotherapy differ between people.

Some people have many side effects. Others have

few. Some side effects can be very serious while

others can be unpleasant but not serious. Most side

effects appear shortly after treatment starts and will

stop after treatment. However, other side effects are

long-term or may appear years later.

Side effects of chemotherapy depend on many

factors. These factors include the drug type, amount

taken, length of treatment, and the person. In general,

most side effects are caused by the death of fast-

growing normal cells. These cells are found in the

blood, gut, hair follicles, and mouth. Thus, common

side effects of chemotherapy include low blood

cell counts, not feeling hungry, nausea, vomiting,

diarrhea, hair loss, and mouth sores. Lung damage

may also occur at the time of treatment. Late side

effects include another type of cancer, heart disease,

low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), and

problems having babies (infertility).

Not all side effects of chemotherapy are listed here.

Please ask your treatment team for a complete list of

common and rare side effects. If a side effect bothers

you, tell your treatment team. There may be ways to

help you feel better. There are also ways to prevent

some side effects.