Chemotherapy

What does chemotherapy involve?

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells (including leukaemia and lymphoma). There are over 50 different chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can stop cancer cells dividing and reproducing themselves. Some are given on their own, but often several drugs are given together (combination chemotherapy). Chemotherapy may also be used with other types of  cancer treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapies, or a combination of these.

The type of chemotherapy treatment given depends on:

  • The type of cancer you have
  • Where the cancer started in your body
  • What the cancer looks like under the microscope
  • Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body

What are the benefits of chemotherapy?

With some cancers, chemotherapy treatment may remove all cancerous cells and cure the disease. Chemotherapy may also be given after surgery or radiotherapy to treat any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given to shrink a cancer before surgery. It can also be given to shrink and control a cancer to help reduce symptoms and prolong life.

Treatment

Chemotherapy is usually given as a series of sessions of treatment. Each session is followed by a rest period. Each session of chemotherapy destroys more of the cancer cells, and the rest period allows the normal cells and tissues to recover. For more information, and if you have any queries about the treatment, speak to your consultant.

Chemotherapy side effects

Side effects associated with chemotherapy can include:

  • Tiredness, fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss, hair thinning
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Mood changes
  • Increased likelihood of infections

Paying for your procedure

The cost of chemotherapy is covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the procedure will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation.

Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the consultant oncologist’s fee, the consultant radiologist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

For further information or to book a consultation or treatment, please get in touch with our cancer enquiries team: Call us on 0800 157 7747

Content reviewed: October 2014

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