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Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that kills  cancer cells or prevents them from multiplying. It is uses powerful chemicals to kill these fast growing cells. There are many different chemotherapy drugs available. These drugs may be used alone or in combination to treat different types of cancers.


Kill cancer cells : Chemotherapy can be used as the primary source of treatment to cure cancer. It can also be used to slow down the growth of cancer cells and prevent them from spreading.

To ease cancer symptoms : It can be used to relieve cancer symptoms for advanced stage cancers that cannot be cured. This is called palliative chemotherapy.

Used after other treatments : This therapy can be done after other treatments such as surgery to kill cancer cells that may still remain in the body. This is called adjuvant therapy.

Prepare for other treatments : Chemotherapy can be used to shrink cancer cells. This makes it easier  for patients to undergo other treatments such as radiation therapy and surgery. This is known as neoadjuvant therapy.

Breast cancer awareness!!!


Chemotherapy is known as body-wide (systemic) treatment. This means the medicine travels through the blood to the entire body. This results in damage to some normal cells such as those of the hair, bone marrow and lining of the digestive tract. This results in side effects such as

  • hair loss
  • upset stomach, nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • mouth sores or dry mouth
  • pain from damaged nerves
  • bruising easily
  • fever
  • increased risk of infection

Side effects depend on the type of cancer and drug being used. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause side effects later on in the life. These include

  • heart problems
  • kidney problems
  • lung problems
  • nerve damage
  • infertility
  • risk of a second cancer


Chemotherapy can be given in a number of ways depending on the type of cancer and where it is found. These include

  • pills taken by mouth
  • injections or shots under the skin or into the muscles
  • chemotherapy cream or gels applied to the skin such as in the case of certain types of skin cancer
  • given through a vein ( intravenously) – chemotherapy infusion

It can also be given directly to the cancer tumor  such as injected into the tumor or a thin disk-shaped wafer containing the medication placed near the tumor during surgery.

This therapy is often given in cycles. There may be a rest period in-between  to allow the body and blood count to recover. Chemotherapy  can be given at hospital, doctors office, home or an outpatient chemotherapy unit.

You will need a follow-up appointment after the procedure. Blood and imaging tests will be done to check for how well the therapy is working and to monitor any side effects or complications.

Chemotherapy. Mayo Foundation. Accessed January 2 , 2014

Chemotherapy . National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Accessed January 2, 2014

Understanding Chemotherapy: A Guide for Patients and Families. American Cancer Society. Accessed January 2 ,2014

The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved January 2014 from website.

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