Surgery and radiation therapy are considered local therapy. Both treat a small focused area of your body. Chemotherapy is a different treatment approach, administering therapy throughout your body. Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment which utilizes medicines or drugs to treat cancer.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a drug that is delivered to the patient’s entire body through the blood system – reaching cancer cells that may have traveled to other parts of the body from the original cancer site.
At times, more than one chemotherapy drug may be administered, since they do not all act in the same way. Chemotherapy drugs are commonly administered intravenously (through the veins), although some may be injected into the muscle or under the skin, as well as taken orally in pill, tablet, or liquid form.
What Does Chemotherapy Do?
- Kills cancer cells to cure cancer
- Stops the spread of cancer
- Slows the growth of cancer
- Helps to relieve symptoms, like pain, caused by cancer
Chemotherapy is traditionally an outpatient procedure, and is given in cycles over weeks or months. Though chemotherapy is an effective way to treat many types of cancer, it also carries a risk of side effects. Some chemotherapy side effects are mild and treatable, while others can cause significant complications.
Timing of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy may be given prior to surgery, in which case it is called Primary Chemotherapy or Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy. Or, it may be given after surgery, in which case, it is called Adjuvant Chemotherapy. The decisions of which drugs to use, what combinations, what dosages, and whether before or after surgery are complex. These issues must be discussed in detail with your medical oncologist.
Hoag Family Cancer Institute: Cancer Outpatient Treatment Clinic
Hoag is here to guide you through your chemotherapy treatment in a professional and caring environment. At the Hoag Cancer Outpatient Treatment Clinic (COTC), we offer a dedicated staff of registered oncology nurses that are highly trained and experienced in the administration of chemotherapy. The staff also provides education to breast cancer patients on caring for your intravenous devices, such as ports and catheters.
It is important to discuss all the aspects of chemotherapy treatment with your breast cancer care team. Please feel free to call us with any questions at 949-536-7332 .