Humans have a whopping 100 trillion cells in their bodies, many of which are rapidly dividing and replacing themselves as they die. Cells duplicate their DNA quickly and go through a series of steps, including certain checkpoints, to ensure that the new cells develop normally.
However, there are certain abnormal cells that lack the checkpoints needed to guarantee normal cell duplication. These cancer cells grow out of control, sometimes blocking necessary functions of the body, causing destruction, serious health problems, and even death in some cases.
Not all chemotherapy drugs act in the same way to disrupt the reproduction of cancer cells. Certain chemo drugs can only bind to cells at certain points in their cell division process, which is part of the reason chemotherapy needs to be administered more than one time to catch cells as they enter that particular stage. The chemotherapy needed will depend on the type of cancer.
Chemotherapy can also kill normal cells that are dividing quickly, such as hair cells, skin cells, and the cells in various mucous membranes throughout the body. This lack of cells that are supposed to be quickly and easily replenished by the body is a main cause of many of the side effects chemotherapy patients often experience.
If you’ve ever wondered how chemotherapy works and why it causes the strange symptoms that it does, you’re in for a treat. Check out the video below to learn more about how chemotherapy functions in relationship with the rapidly changing and dividing cells in your body.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?