What to Know About Chemotherapy for Soft Tissue Sarcoma

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Chemotherapy drugs kills all cells that grow rapidly, including cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. For this treatment, you see a medical oncologist. This is a doctor who specializes in using drugs to treat cancer.

When You May Need Chemotherapy

Your doctor may suggest chemotherapy for any of these reasons:

  • to shrink a tumor before surgery - this is called preoperative or neoadjuvant chemotherapy

  • to kill any leftover cancer cells after surgery - this is called adjuvant chemotherapy

  • to treat sarcomas that have spread

  • as treatment when radiation is too difficult

  • as treatment if you can’t have surgery

How You Take Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy for soft tissue sarcoma often involves getting a mix of drugs that kill cancer cells. You will likely take these drugs through an intravenous line (IV). Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drugs travel all through the body in the bloodstream. Most people with soft tissue sarcoma have chemotherapy in an outpatient part of the hospital, at the doctor’s office, or at home. In some cases, depending on your health or the drugs you take, you may need to stay in the hospital during treatment.

Doctors give chemotherapy in cycles. This means you will switch off between getting chemotherapy and having a rest period. Each treatment and rest period make up one cycle. You’ll likely have more than one cycle of treatment. Your doctor will explain what your treatment plan will be and what you can expect. The length of each treatment period differs depending on the type of drug you take. With many types of chemotherapy, monthly treatments are common. Sometimes you get chemotherapy more often.

What Drugs Are Used to Treat Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Chemotherapy for soft tissue sarcomas may include one drug or a mix of drugs. When more than one drug is used, it is called combination chemotherapy. Two of the most common drugs used to treat sarcomas are Adriamycin (doxorubicin) and Ifex (ifosfamide). Other drugs that may be used as chemotherapy for soft tissue sarcoma include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Ellence (epirubicin)

  • Gemzar (gemcitabine)

  • DTIC-Dome (dacarbazine)

  • Doxil (liposomal doxorubicin)

  • Mesnex (mesna) - used in combination with ifosfamide to protect from severe bladder irritation


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