Chemotherapy uses strong drugs to treat cancer or help relieve symptoms. It is also called “chemo.” It can destroy cancer cells, stop cancer cells from spreading, and slow the growth of cancer cells.
Chemotherapy can be given alone or with other treatments. It can also help other treatments work better. For example, you may get chemotherapy before or after surgery or radiation therapy. Or you may get chemotherapy before a peripheral blood stem cell transplant.
If you or a loved one is starting chemotherapy, you can register for our Chemotherapy 101 class or learn more about our Infusion Center. Below are some frequently asked questions about chemotherapy. Also, watch our Introduction to Chemotherapy video to learn more about this treatment:
How is chemotherapy given?
How do doctors decide which chemotherapy drugs to use?
Where do I go for chemotherapy?
How often will I get chemotherapy?
Does chemotherapy cause any side effects?
Where can I get more information?
Chemotherapy can be given in different ways:
- By vein (through an IV in your arm or chest)
- By mouth (in pill, capsule, or liquid form)
- By applying on the surface of the skin (for some types of skin cancer)
Depending on the type of treatment, chemotherapy may last anywhere from minutes to several hours. Read our chemotherapy factsheets to learn more about what to expect for your chemotherapy appointments.
The chemotherapy drugs you receive depend on the type and stage of cancer you have. Some drugs are used for many cancers, while others are used only to treat specific types of cancer. Your treatment also depends on whether you have had chemotherapy before or if you have other health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
As a National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) uses the most current cancer treatments available. Learn more about national treatment guidelines and how cancer treatments are developed through clinical trials.
Other types of chemotherapy are given while staying in the hospital or at home.
Your doctor will prescribe a schedule for you. Most people get chemotherapy in cycles, which is a period of treatment followed by a period of rest. For example, you may receive one week of daily chemotherapy followed by three weeks of rest. These four weeks make up one cycle. The rest period gives the body a chance to build new, healthy cells.
The side effects you feel depend on the chemotherapy you receive. The way you feel during treatment may be very different from someone else. Side effects are common to many chemotherapy drugs. Many of them can be prevented or controlled with medicines or other measures. Learn more about common side effects.
Visit the infusion website for more chemotherapy education and resources. Also, visit the G. Mitchell Morris Cancer Learning Center (CLC), HCI’s free cancer information service and lending library. It is located on the sixth floor of the cancer hospital and is open to the public Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The CLC offers four easy ways to get cancer-related information:
- Call toll free 1-888-424-2100
- Visit the sixth floor of the cancer hospital
- E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Text “askhci” to 66746
Diseases and Conditions
Pediatric Diseases and Conditions
- Brain Tumors: Chemotherapy
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL): Stem Cell Transplant
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL): Treatment Choices
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL): Treatment Questions
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): Chemotherapy
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): Treatment Choices
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): Treatment Questions
- Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL): Treatment
- Adrenal Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Anal Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Bile Duct Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Bladder Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Breast Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Cancer of Unknown Primary: Chemotherapy
- Cervical Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Chemotherapy: If You Are Considering It
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): Chemotherapy
- Esophageal Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Ewing Sarcoma: Chemotherapy
- Gallbladder Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Hodgkin Lymphoma: Chemotherapy
- Kaposi Sarcoma: Chemotherapy
- Laryngeal Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Malignant Mesothelioma: Chemotherapy
- Primary Bone Cancer: Chemotherapy
- Take a ‘Vacation’ from Cancer
- The 'Chemobrain' Phenomenon in Breast Cancer