Chemotherapy is using drugs to destroy cancer cells in the body. Medical oncologists are doctors who plan chemotherapy treatments according to the patient’s tumor and extent of disease. Drugs may be given alone or in combinations that have been effective for specific tumors. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is given before surgery to shrink large tumors. Adjuvant chemotherapy is given after surgery to prevent a recurrence of the cancer. Chemotherapy drugs may be given alone or in combination and they are often given in cycles with a treatment period followed by days or weeks of recovery.
Chemotherapy treatments are often given in an outpatient setting such as the doctor’s office, a hospital center, or at home. Side effects of chemotherapy depend on the drug, the dose, and may vary for each individual. Side effects may include loss of hair, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth sores. Most side effects improve during the time period between treatments.