Is Chemotherapy Working for You?

Physical examinations, blood tests, CT scans and x-rays are conducted to know if chemotherapy is working for the patient.

Gunjan Rastogi
CancerWritten by: Gunjan RastogiPublished at: Jul 13, 2012Updated at: Jul 13, 2012
Is Chemotherapy Working for You?

In the journal Clinical Cancer Research, doctors of UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center revealed that they have developed a positron emission tomography, which helps detect the effectiveness of chemotherapy by measuring how fast it burns the cancer cells. A doctor, who was part of the study, said that giving chemotherapy treatment to a patient even when the treatment doesn’t work is pointless as it may worsen the patient’s health condition and lead to long-term side-effects. The researchers of the UCLA team also used computed tomography or CT scans to assess if chemotherapy was working for the cancer patient or not.


Positron Emission Tomography is a recent development. Currently, the effectiveness of chemotherapy is assessed according to the patient’s “response” to the chemotherapy medications. Following techniques are used to determine patient’s “response” to the treatment.

  • An external physical examination is conducted to assess a lump or tumour involving the lymph nodes.
  • CT scans or x-rays are used to know the severity of the cancer and its size during the treatment.
  • Blood tests are performed.
  • In certain types of cancer, a tumour marker test may also be conducted to assess the treatment’s effect.


To note the level of progress during the treatment, blood test, cell count or other tests are repeated at different intervals of time to compare the result of the earlier tests.

When can effectiveness of chemotherapy or “response” be measured?

For a patient, who has only started undergoing chemotherapy treatment, the total number of sessions is set. An oncologist tells the patient, in advance, a particular number of chemotherapy sessions he may require to diminish the tumour. The chemotherapy cycles may be increased if the cancerous cells continue to grow. Response to chemotherapy is evaluated after every 2-3 sessions.  In the case of recurring cancer or late cancer stages, the number of sessions will not be prescribed. In such a case, measuring the response helps in deciding additional treatment that the patient may need.
One chemotherapy session is inadequate to evaluate the response to treatment; at least 2-3 sessions are required to know it’s effective.

How Long is Chemotherapy Given?

Various factors decide the duration of chemotherapy treatment, some of which are:

  • type of cancer
  • the stage of cancer
  • patient’s response to the treatment
  • the types of drugs that are prescribed to the patient
  • the side-effects of chemotherapy drugs and
  • the amount of time required to diminish the side-effects.

Clinical trials are conducted to determine that the patient’s condition is benefited by a drug and which one.


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