Chemotherapy is the use of medicine to destroy cancer cells, reduce their growth, or to relive pain. With chemotherapy, medicine or a combination of medicines are used to reach cancer cells that may have spread throughout the body. Unlike some therapies that focus on a particular part of the body, chemotherapy enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and destroys cancer cells even outside the target area.
Chemotherapy is often used in conjuction with other types of cancer treatment, including surgery and radiation, to ensure all the cancerous cells are destroyed.
The vast majority of patients receive chemotherapy intravenously (IV) either as an inpatient in the hospital or on an outpatient basis. At the St. Francis Infusion Center, a needle is inserted into a vein and attached with tubing to a bag holding the chemotherapy medication. The needle is removed at the end of the treatment. For patients who undergo multiple chemotherapy sessions, a catheter (tube) can be left in a vein or a port can be placed into a vein and kept in until sessions are over.
Some patients receive chemotherapy medications orally or by injection.
Because chemotherapy medicines are so powerful, side effects do occur. Some side effects include temporary hair loss, nausea, fatigue, pain, and an increased risk of infection. These side effects are temporary and there are therapies to help patients cope. The St. Francis Oncology Rehabiltation program uses a variety of therapies to help patients inprove their quality of life both during and after cancer treatment.