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Chemotherapy

Medical oncology

Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells, control their growth or relieve pain symptoms. Chemotherapy may involve a single drug or a combination of two or more drugs, depending on your type of cancer and its rate of progression.

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What it is

One of the standard treatment methods for patients with cancer is chemotherapy, or medical oncology. Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells, control their growth or relieve pain symptoms. Chemotherapy may involve a single drug or a combination of two or more drugs, depending on your type of cancer and its rate of progression.

Chemotherapy can be used in combination with other treatments to either shrink tumors before surgery or radiation (neoadjuvant therapy) or to make sure all cancer cells have been eliminated after other treatments have been performed (adjuvant therapy).

Our Allina Health nurses specialize in chemotherapy symptom management and are an excellent resource for patients. If you have questions or concerns about your chemotherapy or infusion therapy, you are welcome to call or schedule an appointment to get the help you need.

Good to know

Our team of expert chemotherapy specialists will consult with your regular providers who will continue to manage your care.

If you experience side effects from your chemotherapy treatment, our care team will work with you to manage your symptoms. Treatment may incorporate medications and/or referrals to other services, such as nutrition consultation and occupational or physical therapy.  

What to expect

The different types of chemotherapy are:

  • standard chemotherapy, which works by killing cancer cells and some normal cells
  • targeted treatment and immunotherapy, which zero in on specific molecules in or on cancer cells.
     

Chemotherapy is administered in one of the following ways:

Intravenous (IV) is the most common method. A needle is inserted into a vein and attached with tubing to a plastic bag holding the drug. For patients who undergo several chemotherapy sessions, a catheter may be inserted into one of the large veins and left in place during the entire course of treatment. Some patients have a metal or plastic port implanted under their skin as an IV connection device.

Oral chemotherapy drugs are taken by mouth, either in pill or liquid form.

Injections are administered into the muscle, under the skin or directly into a cancer lesion, depending on the type or location of the cancer.

Hepatic arterial infusion is used to treat liver cancer. A tiny pump is surgically inserted under the skin and connected to the hepatic artery, which supplies blood to the liver. Drugs are administered through the pump over a period of about two weeks.

When chemotherapy is given over a longer period, a thin catheter can be placed during a minor surgical procedure into a large vein near the heart. This is called a central line..

Chemotherapy is most often given in cycles. These cycles may last one day, several days, or a few weeks or more. There will usually be a rest period when no chemotherapy is given between each cycle. A rest period may last for days, weeks or months. This allows the body and blood counts to recover before the next dose.

Related links

Source: Allina Health Cancer Care
Reviewed by: Allina Health Cancer Care

First published: 9/25/2019
Last reviewed: 9/25/2019

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