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The term chemotherapy is used to describe cancer-killing drugs. Chemotherapy may be used to:
HOW CHEMOTHERAPY IS GIVEN
Depending on the type of cancer and where it is found, chemotherapy may be given in a number of different ways, including:
When chemotherapy is given over a longer period of time, a thin catheter can be placed into a large vein near the heart. This is called a central line. The catheter is placed during a minor surgery.
There are many types of catheters, including:
Different chemotherapy drugs may be given at the same time or after each other. Patients may receive radiation therapy before, after, or while they are getting chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is most often given in cycles. These cycles may last one day, several days, or a few weeks or more. There will usually be a rest period when no chemotherapy is given between each cycle. A rest period may last for days, weeks, or months. This allows the body and blood counts to recover before the next dose.
Often, the chemotherapy is given at a special clinic or at the hospital. Some people are able to receive chemotherapy in their home. If home chemotherapy is given, home health nurses will help with the medicines and IVs. Patients and their family members will receive special training.
SIDE EFFECTS OF CHEMOTHERAPY
Because these medicines travel through the blood to the entire body, chemotherapy is described as a body-wide (systemic) treatment.
As a result, chemotherapy may damage or kill some normal cells, such as those found in the bone marrow, hair, and the lining of the digestive tract.
When this damage occurs, there can be side effects. Some people who receive chemotherapy:
Side effects of chemotherapy depend on many things, including the type of cancer, and which drugs are being used. Each patient reacts differently to these drugs. Some newer chemotherapy drugs that better target cancer cells may cause fewer side effects.
Your doctor and nurse will explain what you can do at home to prevent or treat side effects, such as:
Perry MC. Approach to the patient with cancer. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2011:chap 182.