Last updated: March 12, 2019
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Chemotherapy is the usage of anti-cancer drugs to handle malignant neoplastic disease. It can be used to handle malignant neoplastic disease by halting the growing of malignant neoplastic disease and by killing malignant neoplastic disease cells that have spread to other parts of the organic structure. Chemotherapy is given after surgery ( called adjuvant chemotherapy ) or before surgery ( known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy ) to cut down the hazard of chest malignant neoplastic disease returning.

How is it given?

There are many different chemotherapy drugs used today. Some drugs work better in combination than entirely, so your physician may give you more than one to take. A few anti-cancer drugs are taken by oral cavity or injected into the musculus or fat tissue below the tegument, but most are injected into a vena.

When is it given?

Chemotherapy normally starts within 4 to 12 hebdomads after surgery. Today it is normally given on a 21-day or 28-day rhythm. Drugs are by and large given hebdomadal or one time every 3rd hebdomad, with a remainder period to let your organic structure to recover strength. Some surveies are looking at a shorter agenda – giving chemotherapy more frequently along with drugs to command side effects. This may turn out to be good for some women.The length of the rhythm will depend on the type of drugs used. The length of the intervention period will change, but it typically lasts from 3 to 6 months.

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Classs of chemotherapy drugs

Each chemotherapy drug belongs to a category of drugs. Each category has a different consequence on malignant neoplastic disease cells. That is why different anti-cancer drugs are frequently used in combination with each other. The major drug categories are described below.


Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help

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The Breast Cancer Survivor Manual, 3rd erectile dysfunction. by John Link. 2003 ( Henry Holt and Company ) .



Susan G. Komen for the Remedy

1-877 GO KOMEN

American Cancer Society


Related fact sheets in this series:

• Chemotherapy – Coping With Side Effectss

• Making Treatment Decisions

• Geting the Support You Need

• New Drugs for Breast Cancer Treatment

• Clinical Tests

Questions and Answers About Chemotherapy

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy ( besides called chemo ) is a type of malignant neoplastic disease intervention that uses drugs to destruct malignant neoplastic disease cells.

How does chemotherapy work?

Chemotherapy plants by halting or decelerating the growing of malignant neoplastic disease cells, which grow and divide rapidly. But it can besides harm healthy cells that divide rapidly, such as those that line your oral cavity and bowels or do your hair to turn. Damage to healthy cells may do side effects. Often, side effects get better or travel off after chemotherapy is over.

What does chemotherapy make?

Depending on your type of malignant neoplastic disease and how advanced it is, chemotherapy can:

Remedy malignant neoplastic disease – when chemotherapy destroys malignant neoplastic disease cells to the point that your physician can no longer observe them in your organic structure and they will non turn back.

Control malignant neoplastic disease – when chemotherapy keeps malignant neoplastic disease from distributing, slows its growing, or destroys malignant neoplastic disease cells that have spread to other parts of your organic structure.

Ease malignant neoplastic disease symptoms ( besides called alleviative attention ) – when chemotherapy shrinks tumours that are doing hurting or force per unit area.

How is chemotherapy used?

Sometimes, chemotherapy is used as the lone malignant neoplastic disease intervention. But more frequently, you will acquire chemotherapy along with surgery, radiation therapy, or biological therapy. Chemotherapy can:

Make a tumour smaller before surgery or radiation therapy. This is called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.

Destroy malignant neoplastic disease cells that may stay after surgery or radiation therapy. This is called accessory chemotherapy.

Help radiation therapy and biological therapy work better.

Destroy malignant neoplastic disease cells that have come back ( recurrent malignant neoplastic disease ) or spread to other parts of your organic structure ( metastatic malignant neoplastic disease ) .

How does my physician decide which chemotherapy drugs to utilize?

This pick depends on:

The type of malignant neoplastic disease you have. Some types of chemotherapy drugs are used for many types of malignant neoplastic disease. Other drugs are used for merely one or two types of malignant neoplastic disease.

Whether you have had chemotherapy before

Whether you have other wellness jobs, such as diabetes or bosom disease

Where make I travel for chemotherapy?

You may have chemotherapy during a infirmary stay, at place, or in a physician ‘s office, clinic, or outpatient unit in a infirmary ( which means you do non hold to remain overnight ) . No affair where you go for chemotherapy, your physician and nurse will watch for side effects and do any needful drug alterations.

How frequently will I have chemotherapy?

Treatment agendas for chemotherapy vary widely. How frequently and how long you get chemotherapy depends on:

Your type of malignant neoplastic disease and how advanced it is

The ends of intervention ( whether chemotherapy is used to bring around your malignant neoplastic disease, command its growing, or ease the symptoms )

The type of chemotherapy

How your organic structure reacts to chemotherapy

You may have chemotherapy in rhythms. A rhythm is a period of chemotherapy intervention followed by a period of remainder. For case, you might have 1 hebdomad of chemotherapy followed by 3 hebdomads of remainder. These 4 hebdomads make up one rhythm. The remainder period gives your organic structure a opportunity to construct new healthy cells.

Can I lose a dosage of chemotherapy?

It is non good to jump a chemotherapy intervention. But sometimes your physician or nurse may alter your chemotherapy agenda. This can be due to side effects you are holding. If this happens, your physician or nurse will explicate what to make and when to get down intervention once more.

How is chemotherapy given?

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Chemotherapy may be given in many ways.

Injection. The chemotherapy is given by a shooting in a musculus in your arm, thigh, or hip or right under the tegument in the fatty portion of your arm, leg, or belly.

Intra-arterial ( IA ) . The chemotherapy goes straight into the arteria that is feeding the malignant neoplastic disease.

Intraperitoneal ( IP ) . The chemotherapy goes straight into the peritoneal pit ( the country that contains variety meats such as your bowels, tummy, liver, and ovaries ) .

Intravenous ( IV ) . The chemotherapy goes straight into a vena.

Locally. The chemotherapy comes in a pick that you rub onto your tegument.

Orally. The chemotherapy comes in pills, capsules, or liquids that you swallow.

Thingss to cognize about acquiring chemotherapy through an IV

Chemotherapy is frequently given through a thin acerate leaf that is placed in a vena on your manus or lower arm. Your nurse will set the acerate leaf in at the start of each intervention and take it when intervention is over. Let your physician or nurse know right off if you feel pain or firing while you are acquiring IV chemotherapy.

IV chemotherapy is frequently given through catheters or ports, sometimes with the aid of a pump.

Catheters. A catheter is a soft, thin tubing. A sawbones places one terminal of the catheter in a big vena, frequently in your chest country. The other terminal of the catheter stays outside your organic structure. Most catheters stay in topographic point until all your chemotherapy interventions are done. Catheters can besides be used for drugs other than chemotherapy and to pull blood. Be certain to watch for marks of infection around your catheter. For more information on infection, see Infection.

Ports. A port is a little, circular phonograph record made of plastic or metal that is placed under your tegument. A catheter connects the port to a big vena, most frequently in your thorax. Your nurse can infix a needle into your port to give you chemotherapy or draw blood. This needle can be left in topographic point for chemotherapy interventions that are given for more than 1 twenty-four hours. Be certain to watch for marks of infection around your port. For more information on infection, see Infection.http: //

Pumps. Pumps are frequently attached to catheters or ports. They control how much and how fast chemotherapy goes into a catheter or port. Pumps can be internal or external. External pumps remain outside your organic structure. Most people can transport these pumps with them. Internal pumps are placed under your tegument during surgery.http: //

How will I experience during chemotherapy?

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Chemotherapy affects people in different ways. How you feel depends on how healthy you are before intervention, your type of malignant neoplastic disease, how advanced it is, the sort of chemotherapy you are acquiring, and the dosage. Doctors and nurses can non cognize for certain how you will experience during chemotherapy.

Some people do non experience good right after chemotherapy. The most common side consequence is fatigue, experiencing exhausted and worn out. You can fix for weariness by:

Asking person to drive you to and from chemotherapy

Planing clip to rest on the twenty-four hours of and twenty-four hours after chemotherapy

Geting aid with repasts and childcare the twenty-four hours of and at least 1 twenty-four hours after chemotherapy

There are many ways you can assist pull off chemotherapy side effects. For more information, see the Side Effects At-A-Glance subdivision.

Can I work during chemotherapy?

Many people can work during chemotherapy, every bit long as they match their agenda to how they feel. Whether or non you can work may depend on what sort of work you do. If your occupation allows, you may desire to see if you can work parttime or work from place on yearss you do non experience good.

Many employers are required by jurisprudence to alter your work agenda to run into your demands during malignant neoplastic disease intervention. Talk with your employer about ways to set your work during chemotherapy. You can larn more about these Torahs by speaking with a societal worker.

Can I take nonprescription and prescription drugs while I get chemotherapy?

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This depends on the type of chemotherapy you get and the other types of drugs you plan to take. Take merely drugs that are approved by your physician or nurse. State your physician or nurse about all the nonprescription and prescription drugs you take, including laxatives, allergy medical specialties, cold medical specialties, hurting stand-ins, acetylsalicylic acid, and isobutylphenyl propionic acid.

One manner to allow your physician or nurse know about these drugs is by conveying in all your pill bottles. Your physician or nurse demands to cognize:

The name of each drug

The ground you take it

How much you take

How frequently you take it

Talk to your physician or nurse before you take any nonprescription or prescription drugs, vitamins, minerals, dietetic addendums, or herbs.

Can I take vitamins, minerals, dietetic addendums, or herbs while I get chemotherapy?

Some of these merchandises can alter how chemotherapy works. For this ground, it is of import to state your physician or nurse about all the vitamins, minerals, dietetic addendums, and herbs that you take before you start chemotherapy. During chemotherapy, talk with your physician before you take any of these merchandises.

How will I know if my chemotherapy is working?

Your physician will give you physical tests and medical trials ( such as blood trials and X raies ) . He or she will besides inquire you how you feel.

You can non state if chemotherapy is working based on its side effects. Some people think that terrible side effects mean that chemotherapy is working good. Or that no side effects mean that chemotherapy is non working. The truth is that side effects have nil to make with how good chemotherapy is contending your malignant neoplastic disease.

How much does chemotherapy cost?

It is difficult to state how much chemotherapy will be. It depends on:

The types and doses of chemotherapy used

How long and how frequently chemotherapy is given

Whether you get chemotherapy at place, in a clinic or office, or during a infirmary stay

The portion of the state where you live

Does my wellness insurance wage for chemotherapy?

Talk with your wellness insurance program about what costs it will pay for. Questions to inquire include:

What will my insurance wage for?

Make I or does the physician ‘s office demand to name my insurance company before each intervention for it to be paid for?

What do I have to pay for?

Can I see any physician I want or do I need to take from a list of preferable suppliers?

Do I need a written referral to see a specializer?

Is there a co-pay ( money I have to pay ) each clip I have an assignment?

Is there a deductible ( certain sum I need to pay ) before my insurance wages?

Where should I acquire my prescription drugs?

Does my insurance wage for all my trials and interventions, whether I am an inmate or outpatient?

How can I best work with my insurance program?

Read your insurance policy before intervention starts to happen out what your program will and will non pay for.

Keep records of all your intervention costs and insurance claims.

Send your insurance company all the paperwork it asks for. This may include grosss from physicians ‘ visits, prescriptions, and lab work. Be certain to besides maintain transcripts for your ain records.

As needed, inquire for aid with the insurance paperwork. You can inquire a friend, household member, societal worker, or local group such as a senior centre.

If your insurance does non pay for something you think it should, happen out why the program refused to pay. Then talk with your physician or nurse about what to make next. He or she may propose ways to appeal the determination or other actions to take.

What are clinical tests and are they an option for me?

Cancer clinical tests ( besides called malignant neoplastic disease intervention surveies or research surveies ) test new interventions for people with malignant neoplastic disease. These can be surveies of new types of chemotherapy, other types of intervention, or new ways to unite interventions. The end of all these clinical tests is to happen better ways to assist people with malignant neoplastic disease.

Your physician or nurse may propose you take portion in a clinical test. You can besides propose the thought. Before you agree to be in a clinical test, learn about:

Benefits. All clinical tests offer quality malignant neoplastic disease attention. Ask how this clinical test could assist you or others. For case, you may be one of the first people to acquire a new intervention or drug.

Risks. New interventions are non ever better or even every bit good as standard interventions. And even if this new intervention is good, it may non work good for you.