Chemotherapy and Systemic treatment


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

There are three major types of chemotherapy.

  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy
    • given before surgery to shrink the size of a tumour

  • Adjuvant chemotherapy
    • given after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence

  • Palliative chemotherapy
    • Used to control (but not cure) the cancer in settings in which the cancer has spread beyond the breast and localized lymph nodes.

  • Combined therapies
    • combining, for example, non-drug treatments with localized chemotherapy to limit toxocity and achieve better results

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