Chemotherapy, or ‘chemo’, is the most common form of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy uses drugs called cytotoxics to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Key things to know about chemotherapy:

  • Chemotherapy can be given in a variety of ways, depending on the type of cancer you have and the chemotherapy drugs used.
  • It is most often given by injection into a vein (intravenous chemotherapy), but can be given as tablets or capsules (oral chemotherapy), or injected into a muscle (intramuscular) or just under the skin (subcutaneous).
  • Chemotherapy treatments can be given daily, weekly or monthly for several months to a year. It depends on the type of chemotherapy you get, and how long it takes for new healthy cells to grow between treatments.
  • Each period of chemotherapy treatment is called a cycle. After each cycle there is usually a rest period, so that normal cells repair themselves and the body begins to regain its strength.
  • While chemotherapy drugs can stop cancer cells growing and multiplying, they also affect normal, healthy cells in the process. That’s why fast growing cells such as the ones in your hair and inside your mouth are damaged by chemotherapy.
  • The most effective way of killing cancer through chemotherapy is by using a number of different drugs rather than relying on one.

It’s important to note that there are over 200 different types of cancer and over 50 chemotherapy drugs, which can be given in various ways. So it’s best to discuss the details of your treatment with your doctor.


Read more detailed information about chemotherapy.