Chemotherapy is the use of drugs (called chemotherapeutics, “chemo” drugs, or anticancer drugs) to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning that the drugs flow through the bloodstream to nearly every part of the body to destroy cancer cells.
A course of chemotherapy is generally given in cycles in which a cycle (i.e., period) of treatment is followed by a recovery period, then another treatment period, etc.
Chemotherapy drugs may be administered in various ways, including:
• Orally. Some chemotherapy drugs available as pills (tablets or capsules) and/or in liquid form are taken by mouth.
• Injected into a muscle (i.e., an intramuscular injection; abbreviated as an IM injection)
• Injected into a vein (i.e., an intravenous injection; abbreviated as an IV injection)
• Infused (slowly dripped through a catheter attached to a needle) into a vein (i.e., an intravenous infusion)
• Injected into parts of the body other than a vein.
Depending on the type of chemotherapy drug, the method of administration, and the potential side effects, chemotherapy may be given in various settings, including:
• At home
• At an outpatient clinic
• In the hospital