Chemotherapy uses medication as a treatment for cancer. Chemotherapy is used to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. If a cure is not possible, chemotherapy may be used to relieve the symptoms of cancer. Chemotherapy may be used alone or with surgery, radiation therapy, or both.
The type of chemotherapy that you receive depends on the type and extent of your cancer. One or a combination of chemotherapy medications may be used. Chemotherapy may be received by mouth, intravenously, intramuscularly, or directly into the spinal fluid. Chemotherapy may be swallowed in pill, capsule, or liquid forms.
Chemotherapy may be injected into a muscle. An intrathecal or spinal tap is used to inject chemotherapy directly into the spinal fluid. Intrathecal injection is used for cancers that tend to spread to the central nervous system.
Taking anti-nausea medications before, during, or after your treatments may prevent nausea and vomiting. It may help to eat frequent small meals and eat and drink slowly. You should avoid fried or fatty foods.
Hair loss anywhere on the body is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Your hair should grow back after your treatments are completed. It is helpful to use mild shampoo to clean your scalp and protect your head from sunburn with a sunblock or hat. Some insurance companies cover the expense of a wig that is prescribed by a doctor. Additionally, some cancer treatment centers have image specialists to help you learn to apply make-up and take care of your skin and hair while receiving cancer treatments.
Chemotherapy can affect the bone marrow’s ability to produce white blood cells, resulting in an increased risk for infections. Signs of an infection include fever, chills, sores that do not heal, coughing, shortness of breath, sore throat, or burning with urination. You should contact your doctor if you suspect that you are developing an infection. You can help prevent infections by washing your hands often and avoiding people that have the cold or flu.
The experience of cancer and cancer treatments can be a very emotional experience for you and your loved ones. It is important to embrace positive sources of support. Some people find comfort in their families, friends, co-workers, counselors, and faith. Cancer support groups are a helpful resource where you can receive support, information, and understanding from people with similar experiences. Ask your doctor for support groups near you.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.