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Cancer Health Center

Questions and Answers About Chemotherapy

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How often will I receive chemotherapy?

Treatment schedules for chemotherapy vary widely. How often and how long you get chemotherapy depends on:

  • Your type of cancer and how advanced it is

  • The goals of treatment (whether chemotherapy is used to cure your cancer, control its growth, or ease the symptoms)

  • The type of chemotherapy

  • How your body reacts to chemotherapy

You may receive chemotherapy in cycles. A cycle is a period of chemotherapy treatment followed by a period of rest. For instance, you might receive 1 week of chemotherapy followed by 3 weeks of rest. These 4 weeks make up one cycle. The rest period gives your body a chance to build new healthy cells.

Can I miss a dose of chemotherapy?

It is not good to skip a chemotherapy treatment. But sometimes your doctor or nurse may change your chemotherapy schedule. This can be due to side effects you are having. If this happens, your doctor or nurse will explain what to do and when to start treatment again.

How is chemotherapy given?

Chemotherapy may be given in many ways.

  • Injection. The chemotherapy is given by a shot in a muscle in your arm, thigh, or hip or right under the skin in the fatty part of your arm, leg, or belly.

  • Intra-arterial (IA). The chemotherapy goes directly into the artery that is feeding the cancer.

  • Intraperitoneal (IP). The chemotherapy goes directly into the peritoneal cavity (the area that contains organs such as your intestines, stomach, liver, and ovaries).

  • Intravenous (IV). The chemotherapy goes directly into a vein.

  • Topically. The chemotherapy comes in a cream that you rub onto your skin.

  • Orally. The chemotherapy comes in pills, capsules, or liquids that you swallow.

Things to know about getting chemotherapy through an IV

Chemotherapy is often given through a thin needle that is placed in a vein on your hand or lower arm. Your nurse will put the needle in at the start of each treatment and remove it when treatment is over. Let your doctor or nurse know right away if you feel pain or burning while you are getting IV chemotherapy.

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