Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs or chemicals. Not all cancers are treated with the same drugs or in the same way. Research has helped determine the most effective drugs for different kinds of cancers. You may receive one drug or a combination of drugs, and the chemotherapy may be combined with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or biological therapy.
How does chemotherapy work?
Chemotherapy works by:
- Destroying cancer cells
- Stopping cancer cells from spreading
- Slowing the growth of cancer
How will I receive chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy can be given by:
- Mouth (orally)
- Injection (shot) into muscle or soft tissue
- Injection into a vein or artery
- Injection into a body space, such as the abdomen or space around the lungs
- Application directly onto the skin
Your doctor or nurse will explain how you will receive your specific form of chemotherapy.
Who will administer my chemotherapy?
If your doctor determines that chemotherapy is an appropriate part of your treatment plan, an oncology nurse or your doctor will administer the chemotherapy.
Where will I receive chemotherapy?
You may receive chemotherapy in a hospital, outpatient care center, doctor's office, or at home. Your doctor and nurse will explain where you will receive your chemotherapy and why.
How long will I receive chemotherapy?
The length of your chemotherapy treatment plan depends on what kind of cancer you have and how it responds to the chemotherapy. In most cases, your doctor can give you a general idea of the planned length of treatment. It is possible for this time period to change during treatment.
The length of each individual treatment depends on the drugs used and the specific type of treatment. The time also depends on whether you need blood drawn or other tests performed before your treatment. Your nurse can tell you how long each treatment session is expected to last.
Does chemotherapy cause side effects?
Not all chemotherapy drugs produce side effects, and each person's experience will be different. Your side effects may vary, depending on the type and amount of drugs used. People receiving similar treatments may also experience different side effects.
Possible side effects include:
- Bone marrow depression, which may weaken the immune system or cause fatigue
- Digestive discomfort
- Temporary hair loss
Your cancer care team closely monitors your health and works to reduce any side effects that may occur.
Schedule an Appointment at UPMC CancerCenter
There are two ways to schedule an appointment at UPMC CancerCenter:
- Fill out the UPMC Request an Appointment Form online.
- Call 412-647-2811.
If you have an immediate medical need, please call 911 or go to an emergency room for treatment.