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Definition  

Chemotherapy is a treatment used to kill cancer cells. It involves taking medications that are toxic to fast-growing cells like cancer cells.

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Reasons for Procedure  

Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer. The goal is to reduce the number of cancer cells or decrease the size of tumors.

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Side Effects  

Many types of chemotherapy drugs not only damage the cancer cells but can also damage some of your normal cells. This can create side effects. Side effects will vary between chemotherapy treatments. Your doctor will review a list of possible side effects for your treatment type. Some side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Appetite loss
  • Hair loss
  • Low red blood cell count — anemia
  • Weakened immune system and increased infections
  • Fatigue
  • Easy bruising and/or bleeding
  • Mouth sores
  • Numbness and tingling sensation in the hands and/or feet, or weakness due to nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Damage to the heart muscle
  • Infertility
  • Interruption of the menstrual period

You and your doctor will talk about options to help relieve some of these side effects.

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What to Expect  

Prior to Procedure  

You may be asked to take some pre-medications such as:

  • Steroids
  • Allergy medications, such as an anti-histamine
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Sedatives
  • Antibiotics
Chemotherapy Through Cardiovascular System  
Chemotherapy

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Description of the Procedure  

Your doctor will talk to you about the best way to deliver the medication(s). Chemotherapy drugs may be given by:

  • Mouth
  • Injection into a muscle or vein (IV)
  • Catheter tube into the bladder, abdomen, chest cavity, brain, spinal cord, or liver
  • Application to the skin

How Long Will It Take?  

How long it will take depends on the method used, the number of medications, and the amount of each medication. A session may be as brief as the time it takes to swallow a pill. It could also take several hours or last overnight. Some types of chemotherapy can be given as a continuous infusion through a portable pump.

Will It Hurt?  

The treatment may cause a number of uncomfortable side effects. The delivery of the chemotherapy usually does not hurt.

Average Hospital Stay  

Most often, you can leave after the medication is delivered. Some chemotherapy treatments will require a stay in the hospital. This may be about 2-3 days.

Your doctor may choose to keep you in the hospital if you have complications, such as severe vomiting.