Health Encyclopedia

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of medicine to destroy cancer cells.

Sometimes medicines are put into the blood, usually in a vein, so that they can travel to cells all over the body. This is called systemic chemotherapy.

But chemotherapy also may be:

  • Taken by mouth (orally), in pills, capsules, or a liquid.
  • Mixed into a cream that is rubbed onto the skin (topically).
  • Given as a shot (injection) into a muscle or under the skin.
  • Given through a thin tube (a catheter) directly into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal chemotherapy).
  • Given through a catheter directly into an organ, such as the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy).

Chemotherapy can cause side effects, such as nausea and vomiting. Some side effects go away after treatment is finished. But other side effects, such as infertility, may be permanent.

Last Revised: April 30, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology

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