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Cancer Chemotherapy

Summary

Normally, your cells grow and die in a controlled way. Cancer cells keep growing without control. Chemotherapy is drug therapy for cancer. It works by killing the cancer cells, stopping them from spreading, or slowing their growth. However, it can also harm healthy cells, which causes side effects.

You may have a lot of side effects, some, or none at all. It depends on the type and amount of chemotherapy you get and how your body reacts. Some common side effects are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, and hair loss. There are ways to prevent or control some side effects. Talk with your health care provider about how to manage them. Healthy cells usually recover after chemotherapy is over, so most side effects gradually go away.

Your treatment plan will depend on the cancer type, the chemotherapy drugs used, the treatment goal, and how your body responds. Chemotherapy may be given alone or with other treatments. You may get treatment every day, every week, or every month. You may have breaks between treatments so that your body has a chance to build new healthy cells. You might take the drugs by mouth, in a shot, as a cream, or intravenously (by IV).

NIH: National Cancer Institute

Start Here

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Living With

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Related Issues

  • (American Heart Association)
  • (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
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  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
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  • (American Cancer Society)
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
  • (American Society of Clinical Oncology) - PDF
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
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  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
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  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
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  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • (American Society of Clinical Oncology)
  • (American Cancer Society)
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Specifics

  • (American Thoracic Society) - PDF
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Health Check Tools

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Clinical Trials

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Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Reference Desk

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Find an Expert

  • (American Society of Clinical Oncology)
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Children

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Teenagers

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Men

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Women

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Patient Handouts

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  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
  • Oral mucositis (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
  • Types of chemotherapy (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
  • From the National Institutes of Health Easy-to-Read (National Cancer Institute) - PDF Also in
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