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Chemotherapy (also called chemo) is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy treats cancer with drugs that can destroy cancer cells by interfering with cell division and works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which can grow and divide quickly. Depending on your type of cancer and how advanced it is, chemotherapy can:

  • Destroy cancer cells to the point that your doctor can no longer detect them in your body and they will not grow back
  • Keep cancer from spreading or slows its growth
  • Ease cancer symptoms by shrinking tumors that are causing pain or pressure

Sometimes, chemotherapy is the only cancer treatment used. But more often, a patient will get chemotherapy along with surgery, radiation therapy, or biological therapy. For instance, chemotherapy can make a tumor smaller before surgery, or destroy cancer cells that may remain after surgery or radiation therapy.

Your doctor will decide which chemotherapy drugs to use based on:

  • The type of cancer you have
  • Whether you have had chemotherapy before
  • Whether you have other health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease

Learn more about Chemotherapy

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