This method of cancer treatment uses specialized drugs to attack cancers cells. No chemotherapy drug can kill cancer cells exclusively. It is a method that is physically taxing, but holds a great deal of promise for those patients who are otherwise in good health.
For bladder cancer, two or more drugs are typically used in combination. The drugs can be delivered intravenously (through a needle into a vein), or directly to the bladder by way of the urethra (intravesical therapy).
Chemotherapy might also be used before or after an operation. When used pre-surgery, the cancer tumor can often be reduced in size enough to allow less invasive procedures. When used post-op, it can help destroy any cancer cells still present after an operation. Chemo therapy is also sometimes used in combination with radiotherapy (radiation treatment)
"Chemo" is not often prescribed to treat renal cell carcinoma (the most common type of kidney cancer). It is, however, often used to treat transitional cell carcinoma, which affects the ureters after beginning in the kidneys.
Chemotherapy is also used to fight prostate cancer that has metastasized to distant sites, or in patients whose cancers don't respond to hormone therapy.
Side effects include infertility, kidney and hearing problems, hair loss and decrease in blood cell counts.
Chemotherapy might also be used before or after lymph node surgery, or to attack cancer cells that have migrated from the original site. Side effects can include fatigue, nausea, hair loss, infertility and a heightened risk of infection. Medications and treatments are available that help reduce some of chemotherapy's side effects.
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