Chemotherapy (“chemo”) is a treatment for cancer. Chemo can be a single medication. Or, it can be a combination of medications. When used alone or along with surgery or radiation therapy, it can often shrink a tumor or prevent its spread.
The Goals of Chemotherapy
Chemo can kill cancer cells. As a result, it may do the following:
Shrink cancer before surgery
Rid the body of cancer cells that remain after surgery
Reduce symptoms (such as pain)
Control cancer for a period of time
Cause remission (no evidence of the disease on medical testing)
Cure cancer (no evidence of the disease years after treatment)
How Chemotherapy Works
Chemo kills cells that grow quickly. This is why it kills cancer cells. But it also affects healthy cells that grow fast. This includes cells in the mouth and stomach lining, bone marrow, skin, and hair. This is why side effects, such as hair loss, nausea, and low blood cell counts, occur. As a rule, chemo is given in cycles of treatment. There is often a time of no treatment between cycles. This lets normal cells recover before the next cycle begins.
Benesse Oncology Center
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