To speak to a specialist cancer nurse,
freefone the National Cancer Helpline
1800 200 700
Mon—Thurs 9am—7pm Fri 9am—5pm
For decades chemotherapy has been one of the main treatments used to fight cancer. Learn exactly what chemotherapy is, how it works, and what the treatment involves from a patient perspective, including side effects.
This video tells you all about chemotherapy. The information in this video was correct as of 1st August 2012.
Chemotherapy involves using cytotoxic drugs to kill cancer cells. It can treat cancer cells anywhere in the body because it circulates in the blood. There are many types of chemotherapy drugs that can be given individually or in combination. Chemotherapy can also be used in conjunction with other treatments, including radiotherapy, hormone therapy and biological drug therapies.
Chemotherapy can be given for different reasons, depending on your cancer.
Chemotherapy drugs are administered in various ways:
A lot of chemotherapy drugs can be given on an outpatient basis; however, some treatments require a stay in hospital.
There are different ways of injecting chemotherapy into the bloodstream.
For more information on the side-effects of chemotherapy please see our page on the side-effects of cancer treatments.
Many people are surprised at how long it takes to get back to normality after treatment. In fact, it can take at least a year for you to get over the effects of treatment. Don’t be in a rush to get back to your normal routine with work, just do as much as you are comfortable with.
You may feel very anxious after treatment. You may miss the regular contact with the people who looked after you in hospital or worry about the cancer coming back. There are support groups available that provide patients and family with information, advice and emotional support. Contact the National Cancer Helpline, freefone 1800 200 700 for more details.
Following you treatment you will have regular follow-up visits with your specialist. These will allow your doctor to check for signs of recurrence of the cancer, or follow up on any side effects you still have. Your doctor will also be able to check for signs of new side-effects that may develop after you have finished your treatment. In rare cases, some types of chemotherapy may cause long-term damage to the heart and lungs. There is also a slight risk of developing a second cancer because of the treatment. If you are between check-ups, therefore, and you have a symptom or problem that worries you, it’s very important to let your doctor know.
For more information, please see our booklet Understanding Chemotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page.
Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm
National Cancer Helpline
Freefone 1 800 200 700
Talk to a specialist nurse
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