Chemotherapy is a highly effective treatment for many types of cancer. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments such as radiation therapy or surgery.
Chemotherapy is given:
- As a pill to swallow
- As an injection into the muscle or fat tissue
- Intravenously (directly into the bloodstream; also called IV)
- Topically (applied to the skin)
- Directly into a body cavity
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning the cancer-fighting drugs travel to all parts of the body, not just to the cancer cells. As a result, some patients experience side effects.
- There are more than 50 chemotherapy drugs commonly used to treat cancer. Each person reacts differently to treatment, which is why side effects range from mild to severe. Some people experience no side effects at all.
- Talk with your cancer care team and learn about potential side effects before you begin treatment. Armed with this information, you and your caregivers will be better prepared to minimize, or even prevent, side effects.
- Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, confusion, headaches, sores in the mouth, redness or dryness of the mouth, diarrhea or constipation and hair loss.
Inova Cancer Institute offers dedicated medical oncology units staffed by physicians and nurses with special expertise in oncology and cancer care. These professionals are highly experienced in administering chemotherapy and dealing with any side effects. Your medical oncologist also consults with other physicians involved in your treatment plan, including radiation therapists, surgeons and your primary doctor, to determine the appropriate medications and dosage for your situation.