URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/cancerchemotherapy.html

Cancer Chemotherapy


Normally, your cells grow and die in a controlled way. Cancer cells keep growing without control. Chemotherapy is drug therapy for cancer. It works by killing the cancer cells, stopping them from spreading, or slowing their growth. However, it can also harm healthy cells, which causes side effects.

You may have a lot of side effects, some, or none at all. It depends on the type and amount of chemotherapy you get and how your body reacts. Some common side effects are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, and hair loss. There are ways to prevent or control some side effects. Talk with your health care provider about how to manage them. Healthy cells usually recover after chemotherapy is over, so most side effects gradually go away.

Your treatment plan will depend on the cancer type, the chemotherapy drugs used, the treatment goal, and how your body responds. Chemotherapy may be given alone or with other treatments. You may get treatment every day, every week, or every month. You may have breaks between treatments so that your body has a chance to build new healthy cells. You might take the drugs by mouth, in a shot, as a cream, or intravenously (by IV).

NIH: National Cancer Institute

Start Here

Living With

Related Issues


Health Check Tools

Clinical Trials

Reference Desk

Find an Expert



Patient Handouts