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Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to treat cancer. Usually more than one chemical is used and treatment is cyclical over a period of time to correspond with the cycle of cell division.

The chemicals kill fast-growing cells including hair, bone marrow, digestive tract, and others and it is in these areas that side effects usually occur.

Side effects of chemotherapy can range from mild to extreme.

Almost everyone undergoing chemotherapy has some hair loss. Some may choose to wear wigs or other headcoverings during treatment, but if you’re comfortable without hair that’s OK, too!

Many people experience nausea, fatigue, sleeplessness, periods of hyperactivity, irritability, and/or depression. If the symptoms interfere with your quality of life alert your medical team. They can help.

Premenopausal women may experience premature menopause symptoms as a side effect. Talk with your oncologist and your OB/GYN.

Your immune system is dependent on your bone marrow cells and they will be affected by chemotherapy. Your immune system will be depressed during and after chemotherapy and you should take prudent precautions.

Women may find themselves particularly susceptible to vaginal and urinary tract infections during chemotherapy. Talk with your doctor about prophylactic medications. Read about sex and cancer.

Chemotherapy is usually administered in a doctor’s office or clinic. The most common method is through an IV, however, long-term chemotherapy sometimes requires the insertion of a "port" or "heplock" which remains in your body for the duration of your treatments.

Chemotherapy is a fast moving field of medical treatment. You should feel comfortable talking with your oncologist about any new developments, medicines, or clinical trials. Also read about financial assistance.

Chemosensitive testing (also known as Cell Culture Drug Resistance Testing - CCDRT or In Vitro Drug Sensitivity Testing for Patients with Cancer - DST) is a fairly new procedure whereby a piece of the patient's tumor is surgically removed, sent to a special laboratory and then exposed to different chemotherapy drugs to determine which type of chemotherapy will be most effective. The procedure is not without controversy.

Study the list of questions to ask about chemotherapy.

Here are some of our favorite
resources about chemotherapy.

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