Chemotherapy refers to a large variety of powerful drugs used to treat patients with cancer. Chemotherapy can be given directly into the body through:
- a vein or artery (intravenous or intra-arterial)
- by mouth with pills or liquids (orally)
- by injections into the skin, the muscle or directly into the tumor (subcutaneous, intramuscular or intratumoral)
The goals of chemotherapy (also referred to as systemic therapy, meaning the drugs travel throughout the body) are:
- to prevent a cancer from returning after surgery (adjuvant treatment)
- reduce the amount of tumor by killing cancer cells;
- to slow down the growth of the tumor,
- to relieve symptoms related to the cancer
- to use drugs prior to surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) in an attempt to shrink the tumor to facilitate surgical resection.
- to use chemotherapy in combination with radiation. In this case, the drugs serve as radiosensitizers to make radiation work better.
- to increase a patient’s survival time.
Chemotherapy may involve the use of one drug or a combination of drugs depending on the type of cancer. Side effects of chemotherapy depend on many things, including the type of cancer and the specific drugs being used.
A variety of therapies to help prevent and/or lessen the side effects that a patient may experience while receiving chemotherapy treatment are now available. It is very important that patients have a thorough discussion with their doctor regarding recommendations for specific chemotherapy drugs.
Last Updated on 10/10/2011 10:19:24 AM