Chemotherapy (also called chemo) is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells.
Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly. But it can also harm healthy cells that divide quickly, such as those that line your mouth and intestines or cause your hair to grow. Damage to healthy cells may cause side effects. Often, side effects get better or go away after chemotherapy is over.
Depending on your type of cancer and how advanced it is, chemotherapy can:
Sometimes, chemotherapy is used as the only cancer treatment. But more often, you will get chemotherapy along with surgery, radiation therapy, or biological therapy. Chemotherapy can:
This choice depends on:
Treatment schedules for chemotherapy vary widely. How often and how long you get chemotherapy depends on:
You may receive chemotherapy in cycles. A cycle is a period of chemotherapy treatment followed by a period of rest. For instance, you might receive 1 week of chemotherapy followed by 3 weeks of rest. These 4 weeks make up one cycle. The rest period gives your body a chance to build new healthy cells.
Chemotherapy treats cancer with powerful drugs that travel through the bloodstream in order to:
Staging and Grading is the determination of the kinds of cells that make up the cancer and how fast it is growing. The stage and grade of a cancer helps doctors to predict how a cancer might behave, how it has progressed and how well it may react to treatment. Factors include:
Depending on the type of cancer the patient has, chemotherapy drugs can be given by:
An implanted port may be recommended to those patients that require frequent and/or long-term delivery of medications directly into the bloodstream. A port can also be suggested by a doctor if smaller veins which are typically used for injection of medications are damaged, injured or have poor blood flow.