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Colorectal Cancer Team

About Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer medications, or vaccine-types of agents to disrupt the cancer cells from growing and multiplying. Chemotherapy is an agent that enters the system orally in the form of a tablet, intramuscularly or intravenously through the insertion of a needle into a vein or a catheter. The underlying aim is to arrest the growth of the cancer cells. The medications seek out and destroy cancer cells in different parts of the body. Chemotherapy agents can reach cancers that cannot be reached by surgery or radiation. Occasionally chemotherapy is given prior to surgery to decrease the size of a large tumor to obtain better surgical results.

Factors such as the type of cancer and the stage of the disease are used to determine how and when chemotherapy agents should be given. Depending on these factors, your medication may be given either intravenously, intramuscularly or orally, and the frequency can range from daily, to weekly or monthly.

There are more than 150 cancer drugs now in existence and new uses for these drugs are continually being discovered. New anti-cancer drugs are also being discovered. Oncology is changing rapidly. Overlake constantly stays abreast of these changes, ensuring that you receive the best care and treatment possible.

Side Effects

Chemotherapy is targeted toward destruction of cancer cells, but it also affects other rapidly growing cells, including hair cells and cells that line the digestive tract. As a result, you may experience hair loss, nausea and vomiting. Most chemotherapy drugs also affect bone marrow, decreasing its ability to produce blood cells. Therefore, you may have a higher risk of infection, due to a decrease in white blood cells, or less energy due to a decrease in red blood cells. The type and degree of side effects depend on the drugs taken, the dosage of those medications, your age, general health and other factors. Be sure to speak with your physician about possible side effects and symptom management, which is readily available.

Read about coping with common treatment side effects.