Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment where medication is used to kill cancer cells.
There are¬†many different types of chemotherapy medication, but they all work in a similar¬†way.
They stop¬†cancer cells reproducing, which prevents them from growing and spreading in the body.
When¬†chemotherapy is used
Chemotherapy may be¬†used if cancer has spread or there's a¬†risk it will.
It can be used to:
- try to cure the cancer¬†completely¬†(curative chemotherapy)
- make other treatments more effective¬†‚Äď for example, it can be combined with¬†radiotherapy¬†(chemoradiation)¬†or used before surgery (neo-adjuvant chemotherapy)
- reduce the risk of the cancer¬†coming back¬†after¬†radiotherapy or surgery¬†(adjuvant chemotherapy)
- relieve symptoms¬†if a cure isn't possible¬†(palliative chemotherapy)
The effectiveness of chemotherapy varies significantly. Ask your doctors about the chances of treatment being successful for you.
Chemotherapy can be given in several ways. Your¬†doctors will recommend the best type for you.
The most common types are:
- chemotherapy given¬†into a vein (intravenous chemotherapy)¬†‚Äď¬†this is¬†usually done in hospital and¬†involves medicine being given through a tube in a vein in your hand, arm or chest
- chemotherapy tablets (oral chemotherapy)¬†‚Äď this usually involves taking a course of medication at home, with regular check-ups in hospital
You may be treated with one type of chemotherapy medicine or¬†a combination of different types.
You'll usually have¬†several treatment sessions, which¬†will¬†typically be spread over the course of a few months.
Side¬†effects of chemotherapy
As well as¬†killing cancer cells, chemotherapy can damage some healthy cells in the body,¬†such as¬†blood cells,¬†skin cells and cells in the stomach.
This can cause a range of unpleasant side effects, such as:
- feeling¬†tired most of the time
- feeling sick and vomiting
- hair loss¬†
- an increased risk of picking up infections
- a sore mouth
- dry, sore or itchy skin
Many¬†of these¬†side effects can be treated or prevented and most, if not all,¬†will pass after treatment stops.