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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. The drugs often are called "anticancer" drugs.

Why is chemotherapy given to cancer patients?

  • To cure cancer
  • To keep the cancer from spreading
  • To slow the cancer's growth
  • To kill cancer cells which may have spread to other parts of the body from the original tumor
  • To relieve symptoms that may be caused by the cancer

Why are there side effects when someone receives chemotherapy?

Cancer cells grow and divide rapidly. Chemotherapy drugs are made to kill fast-growing cells. Certain healthy cells multiply quickly so the chemotherapy can affect these cells also. The fast-growing normal cells most likely to be affected are cells in the following areas:

  • Bone marrow
  • Digestive tract
  • Hair follicles
  • Reproductive system

What are the most common side effects of chemotherapy?

Because normal cells are affected during chemotherapy, there are certain side effects that are more common than others. These include:

  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Anemia (a decrease in the red blood cell count that can cause fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath)
  • Fatigue (most commonly reported side effect)
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or decreased appetite
  • Neutropenia (a decrease in the white blood cell count that increases your risk for infection)
  • Thrombocytopenia (a decrease in platelets that can cause bleeding and easy bruising)

If you will be receiving chemotherapy, here are few tips to review before you come in for treatment. 

© 2014 Karmanos Cancer Institute Pencil
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.