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What is chemotherapy?

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Quick Answer

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment for cancer that targets quickly dividing cancer cells, states KidsHealth. The medication used in chemotherapy stops the cell division in those cancerous cells.

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What is chemotherapy?
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Full Answer

Often simply called "chemo," this type of cancer treatment is systemic, meaning it travels throughout the body and works on cancer cells anywhere, reports the American Cancer Society. Other types of cancer treatment, such as radiation or surgery, focus on a specific part of the body. The goal of chemo is to cure the cancer, keep it from spreading, or to shrink the tumors to relieve pain or pressure.

Methods of administering chemo drugs include oral, injections, intra-arterial, intraperitoneal, topically and intravenously, as described by WebMD. Patients may receive chemotherapy in the hospital either on an inpatient or outpatient basis, in a clinic, at a doctor's office or at home.

As of 2013, there were over 100 types of chemotherapy drugs, according to the American Cancer Society. Those drugs are often used in combination to work effectively. The type of cancer and other health issues of the patient play a role in choosing the specific drug and creating a personalized chemotherapy treatment plan. They may also be combined with surgery and radiation to destroy cancer cells left behind by the other treatments.

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