Alternate Names

  • antineoplastic medications
  • anticancer medications


Chemotherapy refers to medicines that can kill or control cancer. Chemotherapy medicines target specific cancer cells, though unavoidably they kill some normal cells as well. These medicines travel to all parts of the body through the bloodstream. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, which means it is a treatment that affects the whole body.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Following are some of the common uses of chemotherapy:
  • to control the growth of the cancer
  • to cure the cancer
  • to relieve the symptoms or pain caused by the cancer
Some types of cancer respond better to chemotherapy than others. Leukemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer are often treated with chemotherapy.

How is the procedure performed?

Most chemotherapy medicines are given directly into a vein. This allows them to enter the bloodstream quickly. Some medicines are given by mouth. These medicines are absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream. Combinations of medicines are often used for the most effective treatment, and to decrease the toxicity of the chemotherapy.


Perry, M.C; Anderson, C.M; Dorr, V.J; Wilkes, J.D. (1999)

Principles of Cancer Management: Chemotherapy in Cancer: Principles and Practice in 5th Edition. Lippincott-Raven: Philadelphia. Pp. 333-345.

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