NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Mycosis Fungoides, Version 1.2016
Overview of cancer treatments 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
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.