Chemotherapy is treatment with drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Cancer cells that remain after surgery or those that have spread to
distant sites can be treated with chemotherapy. However, some normal
body cells are also affected, causing side-effects.
Some chemotherapy causes sickness, though modern anti- sickness
drugs can reduce this. Some, but not all, forms of chemotherapy cause
hair loss. Your doctor will explain the particular side-effects that
your treatment may cause and will perform blood tests before giving
each course of treatment.
The choice of drugs used depends on the type of cancer, your
health and possibly your age. Most chemotherapy uses a combination of
drugs to maximize effectiveness and minimize side-effects. You will
be given chemotherapy drugs according to a certain timetable. For example,
they might be given once every 3 weeks, over 15 weeks. This allows your
body, especially your blood cells, to recover between each treatment.
Most treatments are given on an out-patient basis.
Usually, chemotherapy drugs are given through a drip or by injection
into a plastic tube or cannula inserted into a vein in the arm, though
some can be given as tablets.
For certain types of cancer, high-dose hormone treatment may
slow the growth of the cancer, or even shrink it. Hormone therapy generally
has fewer side-effects than chemotherapy.