What is cancer chemotherapy?
Cancer chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment. It uses medicines to destroy cancer cells.
Normally, the cells in your body grow and die in a controlled way. Cancer cells keep growing without control. Chemotherapy works by killing the cancer cells, stopping them from spreading, or slowing their growth.
Chemotherapy is used to:
- Treat cancer by curing the cancer, lessening the chance it will return, or stopping or slowing its growth.
- Ease cancer symptoms by shrinking tumors that are causing pain and other problems.
What are the side effects of chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy does not just destroy cancer cells. It can also harm some healthy cells, which causes side effects.
You may have a lot of side effects, some side effects, or none at all. It depends on the type and amount of chemotherapy you get and how your body reacts.
Some common side effects are:
- Mouth sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
There are ways to prevent or control some side effects. Talk with your health care provider about how to manage them. Healthy cells usually recover after chemotherapy is over, so most side effects gradually go away.
What can I expect when getting chemotherapy?
You may get chemotherapy in a hospital or at home, a doctor's office, or a medical clinic. You might be given the medicines by mouth, in a shot, as a cream, through a catheter, or intravenously (by IV).
Your treatment plan will depend on the type of cancer you have, which chemotherapy medicines are used, the treatment goals, and how your body responds to the medicines.
Chemotherapy may be given alone or with other treatments. You may get treatment every day, every week, or every month. You may have breaks between treatments so that your body has a chance to build new healthy cells.
NIH: National Cancer Institute