Chemotherapy is medicine used to destroy cancer cells. It is toxic to fast-growing cancer cells. It can also affects fast-growing healthy cells, like blood cells, lining in stomach, and hair.
Reasons for Procedure
Chemotherapy is used as a part of cancer treatment. The role it will play will be based on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. Chemotherapy may:
Cure cancer. Cancer cells are destroyed to the point that cancer can no longer be found in the body. The cancer cells will not grow back.
Control cancer. Chemotherapy may keep cancer from spreading or slows its growth. It may also destroy cancer cells that have spread to other parts of your body.
Ease cancer symptoms. It may be given as part of palliative care. Chemotherapy can be used to shrink tumors that are causing pain or pressure.
The medicine attacks fast-growing cells. It can also hurt healthy cells and lead to side effects. Side effects vary. The type of medicine and type of healthy cells affected will determine what symptoms you have.
Damage to healthy cells that line the mouth, stomach, and intestines can cause:
Treatment time will vary. The type of treatment, number of medicines, and the amount needed will all play a role.
Will It Hurt?
Medicine will rarely cause pain as it is delivered. Side effects may start hours or days after.
Average Hospital Stay
You can often leave after the medicine is given to you. You may need to stay in a hospital for some treatments. This may be about 2 to 3 days.
You may need to stay in the hospital if there are problems, such as vomiting.
At the Hospital
After you are given medicine, you may get:
Injections of an immune-system or blood cell boosting medicine
Other drugs, such as steroids, allergy medicines, sedatives, and antibiotics
The time it takes you to feel better will depend on the treatment you had and how your body responds. Some people will need more rest than others. You may be able to do regular activities or they may be very impacted.
Follow-up tests will show how the treatment is working. It can also help to find any complications. The tests will help guide future treatments.
Call Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor if you are having problems such as:
Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
Sores in your mouth, throat, or lips
White patches in your mouth
Diarrhea or constipation
Vomiting that stops you from holding down fluids
Blood in your vomit
Nosebleeds, bleeding gums, new vaginal bleeding
Blood in your urine or stool
Burning or frequency of urination
Calf pain, swelling, or redness in the legs or feet
Abnormal vaginal leaking, itching, or odor
New pain or pain that you can't control with the medicines you were given
Numbness, tingling, or pain in your limbs
Joint pain, stiffness, rash, or other new problems
Redness, swelling, pain, bleeding, or a pimple at the site of your IV
Headache, stiff neck
Problems hearing or seeing
Ringing in your ears
Exposure to someone with an illness that can spread, such as chickenpox
Weight gain or loss of 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) or more
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Chemotherapy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/chemotherapy.html. Accessed January 1, 2020.
Chemotherapy and you: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/chemo-and-you. Accessed January 1, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 1/7/2020
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