medical oncology


Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancer. It works in two ways: it stops the growth of the tumor and prevents tumor cells from spreading to other parts of the body (metastasising).

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Chemotherapy may be prescribed after surgery (then called adjuvant chemotherapy) or before surgery (known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy). In the first case, it aims to reduce the risk of further progression (recurrence or metastasis) of the tumor, and in the second, it aims to reduce the size of the tumor, making subsequent surgery more effective.

How is chemotherapy administered?

There are many different types of chemotherapy drugs that are used nowadays.. Some work better given alone, others work better in combination. Your oncologist may prescribe a combination of chemotherapy drugs, which is called a ‘chemotherapy regimen’. There are a small number of chemotherapy drugs that can be taken by mouth or injected muscularly or subcutaneously. The majority are administered intravenously through a system.

Depending on the chemotherapy regimen, medications may be taken at home or in hospital.

When is chemotherapy administered?

Chemotherapy is usually started 4 to 12 weeks after surgery. It is generally given nowadays within a 21- or 28-day cycle. Medicines are given weekly or every 3 weeks, allowing time for the body to recover from the effects of chemotherapy. The length of the cycle and the frequency of infusions depend on the type of medication being used. The total number of courses that are prescribed varies, but is usually 6 or 8.

Types of chemotherapy drugs

Each chemotherapy drug belongs to a separate class of drugs. Each class exerts a different effect on cancer cells. This is why different anticancer drugs are used in combinations with each other. The main classes of chemotherapy drugs are described below:

They destroy the genetic material in cells that controls tumor growth.
Representatives: Cyclophosphamide

Interfere with cell division.

Representatives: Methotrexate, 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU)

Inhibit cell division.
Representatives: Paclitaxel, Docetaxel, Vinorelbine

Destroy genetic material of tumor cells.

Representatives: Epirubicin

What is important to know?

However, while on chemotherapy, you should prepare for some changes in your daily life. Although in almost all cases patients manage to combine their professional responsibilities around the administration of chemotherapy, some may experience overall exhaustion and feel too tired to carry out their usual activities.


If this happens to you, don’t despair and don’t lose heart. Remember that unpleasant side effects are a temporary condition and that you will feel much better after the end of chemotherapy. Until then, your attending physician will give you some suggestions on how to cope with the worst side effects.

See also

Stay at the Clinic
Hormone therapy
Preservation of the chance to become a parent