Chemotherapy (chemo) is a medication or a combination of medications prescribed to kill cancer cells which may also kill healthy cells. These medications are often called "anti-cancer" drugs.
Chemotherapy treatments may be given in many ways:
- Intravenous (IV): through a catheter tube in the vein, typically placed in the arm. Sometimes, your doctor may recommend having an IV infusion device. The two most common are PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) lines and Ports. Both of these devices stay in longer than an IV catheter placed in your vein at the time of your infusion visit. Talk to your healthcare team for further information about what's best for you.
- Continuous Home Infusion Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy given slowly over one or more days is called continuous infusion chemotherapy. This type of treatment is given with an infusion device that is attached to your intravenous catheter or port. The device will make sure that the chemotherapy is given at the proper speed and that the right amount is received. Typically, a nurse will verify and connect you to the continuous infusion treatment in the infusion area. Most patients carry their device, hidden in a pouch, wherever they go while the chemotherapy is infusing.
- Orally: taken by mouth as pills, capsules or liquids that you swallow.
- Intracavitary: given directly into a body area.
- Topically: placed on the skin where it is absorbed.
- Intra-arterial (IA): given directly into an artery.
Biotherapy (biological therapy or targeted therapy) is treatment that uses the body's own immune system to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Some biotherapies work by stopping the blood supply to a tumor or by interrupting signals within the cancer cell.
Types of biotherapy include monoclonal antibodies, cancer vaccines and growth factors.
- Monoclonal antibodies kill cancer cells.These drugs do not cause harm to healthy cells..
- Cancer vaccines help the body fight to keep cancer from coming back..
- Growth factors help your own body renew and make blood cells.
Your oncology doctor will decide which medication(s) to give you and how they will be given. Information about your treatment will be given to you by your oncology team.
Learn more about chemotherapy:
- Chemotherapy Information Guide
provides lists of resources, from books and video, to web sites and newsletters.
- Chemotherapy and You [National Cancer Institute]