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1. What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is one of the most common forms of treatment when fighting cancer.  It is a drug used to destroy cancer cells. Another word for it is “chemo”.

2. When is chemotherapy used?

  • Anytime there is known or suspected cancer cells in the body’s circulation or microcirculation.
  • Goals of chemotherapy can be for cure, control, or palliation. Cure would mean that the cancer treatments, which include chemotherapy, would eliminate all of your cancer and it would not return.
  • To control the cancer from spreading throughout the body. It would not eliminate the cancer altogether, but it can keep cancer “in remission” for a period of time.
  • Palliation means that Chemotherapy is used to prevent symptoms from occurring and is used to help one feel more “comfortable” although the cancer may still progress.

3. How is chemotherapy given?

Most chemotherapy is given intravenously (IV). This means it is given directly into your blood system.  This allows the drugs to be rapidly absorbed and begin to work on your cancer quickly.  Sometimes chemotherapy can be given by other ways, such as in pill form.  Your doctor or nurse will explain the way in which your drugs are to be given to you.

4. How often will I get chemotherapy?

It varies on the patient; it could be every day, every week, or every month.  After treatment, there is a rest period in which your body is given the chance to build healthy new cells now that the bad ones have been killed.

5. What are common side effects of chemotherapy?

Side effects from cancer chemotherapy drugs will depend on the specific drugs, the dose of the drugs and how you respond to the drugs.  No two people experience the same side effects. It is important to know that most side effects can be managed or eliminated. Most people are able to continue with their normal routines including work with some modification. Again your individual treatment plan and potential side effects will be discussed with you.

You may experience the following side effects during your treatment:

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Increased chance of bruising and bleeding
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in appetite
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Nerve and muscle changes
  • Skin changes
  • Nail changes
  • Weight Loss/Gain

6. How long do treatments last?

The length of your treatment will depend on the type of drugs you are receiving, the combination of drugs and your tolerance to the drugs.  Usually treatments last from one to three hours. However, some treatments maybe as long as five hours long.