Chemotherapy (Overview)


This cancer treatment, commonly called "chemo," uses powerful drugs to target the cancer cells in your body. These drugs kill your cancer cells, or slow their growth and keep them from spreading. Chemotherapy can be used on its own. It can also be combined with other cancer treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy.

How Chemo Works

There are many types of chemo drugs. Most treatment plans use a combination of drugs. They interrupt the process that allows cancer cells to divide. These drugs may also damage healthy cells, but most healthy cells can repair themselves after treatment.

How You Receive Chemo

Chemo drugs can be given in different ways. You may receive chemo through a catheter put into a vein. Chemo drugs can also be injected through a syringe, or you may swallow them in pill or liquid form. Some chemo drugs can be applied directly to the skin.

How Often You Are Treated

Your treatment schedule depends on the drugs used, and on your specific needs. You may receive chemo treatments daily, weekly, or monthly. The length of your treatment depends on how your body responds to the drugs. Your care team monitors your progress with regular checkups and lets you know how your treatment is progressing.

Side Effects

For some patients, chemotherapy causes serious side effects. These may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, memory problems and emotional changes. However, not all people experience side effects. Talk to your doctor about the side effects that may be caused by the drugs in your care plan.