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Chemotherapy, commonly referred to as chemo, is the use of chemical compounds (drugs) that kill cancer cells used to treat cancer.
How Chemotherapy Works
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses powerful drugs to destroy fast growing cancer cells, and prevent them from multiplying. Your doctor will determine which drugs to administer based on the type, stage and severity of your cancer, as well as your overall health and ability to tolerate these medications. Genetic testing may also be used to determine the best drug option or overall treatment for you.
Oftentimes chemotherapy is used in conjunction with other therapies such as immunotherapies, surgery and radiation therapy.
Inspira Cancer Specialists
If you’d like more information about your or a loved one’s cancer care, or to receive a second opinion about a diagnosis, our team is here to help.
How Chemotherapy is Administered
Depending on your specific cancer, your chemotherapy treatments may be given in the following ways:
- As an oral pill or liquid
- As an injection directly into the muscle or tissue
- Directly into the bloodstream (intravenously or IV)
- Directly into a body cavity, such as the stomach (intracavity chemo)
- Into your spinal canal
- Directly into the bladder (intravesical)
- Into a main artery that "feeds" the tumor (intra-arterial)
- Through a needle into the tumor (intralesional)
- Applied topically (on the skin)
Chemo is commonly administered in cycles to give the body a chance to rest and recover., as these drugs can potentially affect healthy cells as well These chemo cycles may be given daily, weekly, every few weeks, or monthly. Since it is hard to predict how you will feel after chemo, it is important to have someone accompany you to your appointments so they can help you get home safely. If you do not have a support person, your Inspira cancer coordinator can help connect you with needed services.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
While chemo can be quite effective in treating certain cancers, they also affect our healthy cells and impact other parts of the body, not just cancer cells. As a result, there can be many side effects during treatment. Your care team at Inspira will work to proactively manage any side effects of treatment by utilizing supportive medications and holistic approaches. Being able to anticipate these side effects can help you and your caregivers prepare and, in some cases, prevent these symptoms from occurring.
The most common side effects of chemotherapy can include, but are not limited to:
- Extreme fatigue
- Increased risk for infection
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Mouth and throat sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hair loss
- Skin and nail changes
- Nerve damage
- Decreased appetite
- Weight gain or loss
- Changes in your memory or thinking
Many of these side effects can be prevented or managed with treatment, and most will subside after treatment ends. Your care team will provide you with a survivorship care plan, which includes managing any long term side effects after your treatment is completed.