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Chemotherapy (chemo) is the use of anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells, including leukaemia and lymphoma cells. These drugs can be given on their own, but often more than one drug is given. This is called combination chemotherapy.
We have more information about:
We have more information about chemotherapy drugs|. This is written for anyone who's looking for information about chemo drugs, not just for young adults.
The type of chemotherapy treatment you’re given depends on different things, but mainly on:
Chemo is often used with other treatments, such as surgery|, radiotherapy|, hormonal therapies and biological therapies.
We have general information about hormonal therapies| and biological therapies|. This information is written for people of all ages, not just for young adults.
It varies from person to person, but chemo can be used in the following ways:
Chemotherapy stops the cancer cells reproducing themselves. The chemo drugs travel through your blood, so they can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body. Different chemotherapy drugs damage cancer cells in different ways. When doctors use a combination of drugs, they choose each drug for its different effects.
Chemo affects healthy cells as well as cancer cells, which is what causes side effects|. The big difference is that the damage to healthy cells is temporary, so side effects usually go away when treatment ends. Healthy cells can repair the damage that chemo does, but cancer cells can’t.
Content last reviewed: 1 June 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
Our Online Community has a group for people aged 16-24 and living with cancer where you can talk to other people.
Cancer and its treatment might affect your work. It can help to know the effect it might have, and what you and your employers can do.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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