Chemotherapy: Strong Drugs to Fight Cancer
If you have cancer, your doctor may give you strong drugs to treat it. Use of these drugs is called “chemotherapy.” Doctors also sometimes call this treatment “chemo.” Many studies have shown that chemotherapy drugs can kill cancer cells. Chemo can also be used with other cancer treatments such as surgery or radiation.
Sometimes chemotherapy can actually cure your cancer. But, in most cases, chemo is used to:
- Stop the spread of cancer
- Make the cancer grow slower
- Relieve pain and other side effects from cancer
- Kill cancer that has spread elsewhere in the body
Why do doctors use chemotherapy?
Cancer is a normal kind of cell in your body that becomes abnormal. In most cancers, the abnormal cells begin growing very quickly, making more abnormal cells. The cancer cells start growing out of control.
Chemotherapy kills cells that grow fast. That’s why it kills cancer cells, but it can also kill normal cells that grow quickly. Think of the cells that make hair and how quickly hair grows. That’s why people who take chemo often lose their hair. Most normal cells can fix themselves, so a person’s hair can grow back after stopping chemo.
Some of the reasons doctors use chemo include:
- Shrinking tumors before surgery or radiation• Helping to kill any cancer cells that are left after surgery or radiation• Fighting
- Helping to kill any cancer cells that are left after surgery or radiation• Fighting the cancer if it comes back
- Fighting the cancer if it comes back
Does chemo work by itself?
Chemotherapy can be very effective on its own. Many times, however, chemo is part of a treatment plan that includes surgery and radiation therapy.
Most patients get more than one chemo drug. This is called combination chemotherapy. The drugs work together to kill more cancer cells.
Taking chemo drugs
There are many chemo drugs, and there are many ways to take them.
- Most chemo drugs are given through a tiny plastic tube called a “catheter.” A nurse or doctor will insert the tube into a vein. This is called IV or “intravenous” chemo.
- Some types of chemo are given in pill or liquid form and swallowed.
- Other types of chemo are given like a flu shot.
- Some chemo drugs can be injected into the spine, chest or belly. Some are even rubbed on the skin.
Chemo can be given on different schedules, such as every day, every week, or once a month. It depends on the drug and the type of cancer. Your doctor will usually give you a break between chemo treatments to give your body time to adjust. How long you get chemo depends on the type of cancer you have and how the cancer reacts to the drugs.
Will chemotherapy work?
Your doctor and your treatment team will give you physical exams, blood tests, and x-rays to see how you’re doing. They’ll do their best to tell you about your progress, but don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Regional Cancer Care Associates — Convenient quality cancer care
Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) is committed to giving you easy access to top-quality, comprehensive, leading edge cancer care. We’re the community choice for local convenience that offers high-quality, comprehensive and advanced treatment. At RCCA, we’re one of the nation’s largest cancer care networks — yet we focus on every patient, individually. We’ll make sure your care is second to none.