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What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs or medicine to treat disease and is most commonly associated with cancer treatment.

What sets chemotherapy apart from other cancer treatments is that it is a systemic treatment, which means the drugs travel throughout the body. The most significant benefit of this is that the drugs can kill cancer cells that have metastasized (spread) to areas of the body that are far from the primary (original) tumor.

There are various types of chemotherapy drugs that target different phases of the cell cycle. Because of this, some chemotherapy drugs are more effective against certain types of cancer or should be used in varying frequencies because of the timing of cell phases.

Types of chemotherapy drugs include:

  • Alkylating agents
  • Antimetabolites
  • Anti-tumor antibiotics
  • Topoisomerase inhibitors
  • Mitotic inhibitors
  • Corticosteroids

Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with other treatment methods, such as surgery or radiation therapy.

Why is chemotherapy important in healthcare?

Chemotherapy is one of the primary treatments for cancer, and it has one of three goals: cure, control, or palliation. Curing involves removing all cancer cells while control consists of shrinking tumors or preventing the cancer from spreading. Finally, palliation helps to ease symptoms that result from the cancer.

Overall, chemotherapy offers a way to attack cancer cells, improving the healthcare of patients affected by cancer.