Chemotherapy (often called "chemo") is a class of cancer-killing medications that travel through your bloodstream and attack cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs are administered either intravenously or as a pill. Your doctor might recommend chemotherapy after surgery to decrease the chance of your cancer recurring. Chemotherapy is also used when a cancer could spread to other parts of your body.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles with a recovery period following each treatment period. The complete chemotherapy treatment usually takes several months.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend on which drugs are used, at what dosages and for how long. Common possible side effects include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased chance of infections (due to low white blood cell counts)
- Easy bruising or bleeding (due to low blood platelet counts)
- Fatigue (due to low red blood cell counts and other reasons).
Side effects are usually short-term and go away once treatment has concluded. If you experience side effects, let your doctor know. Drugs or other therapies can often improve your symptoms. In particular, medications can effectively treat nausea and vomiting.