What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. These drugs disrupt the way cancer cells grow and divide but they also affect normal cells.

You may have chemotherapy:

  • with radiotherapy as your main treatment – this is called chemoradiation
  • after surgery and with radiotherapy (chemoradiation) if there is a high risk of your cancer coming back
  • if your cancer comes back after treatment
  • if your cancer spreads to other parts of your body.

How you have chemotherapy

You may have chemotherapy in the chemotherapy day unit or on the ward. The drugs are usually given into a vein (intravenously).

You will usually have chemotherapy through a small tube (cannula) in your hand or arm.

Sometimes they are given through a soft plastic tube called a central line or PICC line. These lines go in a large vein in your chest. Chemotherapy can also be given into a thin plastic tube with a rubber disc (port) under the skin on your upper chest.

Chemotherapy is given into your vein during one or more sessions of treatment. The length of each session will vary depending on the drug combination you are having. After each session you will have a rest period. The chemotherapy session and the rest period is called a cycle of treatment.

The length of a cycle depends on the chemotherapy drugs you’re having, but most cycles are 1–3 weeks long. Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about your chemotherapy.

Drugs used for chemotherapy for cervical cancer

A number of different drugs may be used to treat cervical cancer. Your doctor will explain to you which drugs are best for you. Chemotherapy drugs may be used on their own or in combination.

Drugs which may be used include:

Back to Chemotherapy explained

Your feelings

You may experience difficult feelings while having chemotherapy treatment. Talking these over can be helpful.

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.