Also known as:
- Treatment antineoplastic (antitumor)
- Cytotoxic treatment (which destroys the cells)
Chemotherapy is a way to treat cancer by using agents, or drugs, anticancer. Chemotherapeutic agents inhibit or block the development, multiplication and spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body. It is used to treat many different types of cancer.
Chemotherapy is different from other cancer treatments such as surgery and radiotherapy, since it affects the whole body. It is considered a systemic treatment because the chemotherapy drugs circulate throughout the body and reach other parts where the cancer could have spread from its original location.
Chemotherapeutic agents vary in their chemical composition, how they act and how they are administered. Although it is possible to use a sole agent to treat cancer was more often used a combination of agents to reduce the risk of developing resistance to a drug. It can also combine chemotherapy with other cancer treatments such as surgery and radiotherapy, to better control the disease.
Because chemotherapy affects the entire body, healthy cells can also be damaged. The cells most affected are those that divide rapidly, like cells from bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract. When healthy cells are damaged, side effects such as fatigue and nausea occur. These are mostly temporary and damage healthy cells to repair themselves and recover when treatment is finished. The type of side effects produced and severity vary.