Chemotherapy will be used anytime there are known or suspected cancer cells in the body’s circulation or microcirculation. The 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.
A second goal may be control of the cancer. Chemotherapy would be used to keep cancer from spreading. It would not eliminate the cancer altogether, but it can keep the cancer “in remission” for a period of time.
The last role of chemotherapy could be for palliation. This 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.
Chemotherapy is a “systemic” therapy. This means that the drugs will go throughout your body and theoretically kill cancer cells within your body. Certain chemotherapy drugs are known to kill certain types of cancer cells. Therefore, your chemotherapy drugs are selected with your specific cancer in mind.
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.
The length of your treatment will depend on the type of drugs you are receiving, the combination of drugs and your tolerance of the drugs. Usually treatments last from one to three hours. However, some treatments may be as long as five hours.