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What is chemotherapy for colon cancer?

Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells.

Chemotherapy may be given:

  • after surgery, to reduce the risk of cancer coming back.
  • before surgery (if you are having cancer removed from the liver or lungs), to shrink the cancer and reduce the risk of it coming back.
  • as the main treatment (if it has spread to parts of the body such as the liver or lungs) to try to control it for as long as possible.

Chemotherapy drugs used to treat bowel cancer

The drugs most commonly used to treat bowel cancer are:

Often, two or more chemotherapy drugs are given in combination. The three most commonly used combinations are:

  • FOLFOX (folinic acid, fluorouracil and oxaliplatin)
  • FOLFIRI (folinic acid, fluorouracil and irinotecan)
  • CAPOX (XELOX) (capecitabine and oxaliplatin).

Back to Chemotherapy explained

When is chemotherapy used?

Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells in the body. Your doctor will explain if chemotherapy is advised for you.

Where can you have chemotherapy?

You usually have chemotherapy in a chemotherapy day unit or clinic. If your treatment is more complex, you may need to stay in hospital.

How do chemotherapy drugs work?

Chemotherapy drugs work by stopping cancer cells reproducing. The drugs can also affect healthy cells, causing side effects.