Chemotherapy is the use of cytotoxic drugs, which kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used to:

  • delay the progress of advanced cancer if surgery and radiotherapy are not possible
  • destroy any cancer cells remaining in the body after surgery, in combination with radiotherapy
  • reduce the risk of a tumour coming back after surgery
  • relieve symptoms rather than curing the cancer.

Chemotherapy is usually given by injecting the drugs into a vein (intravenously), but it can also be taken orally in tablet form, which you can take at home. This means that cancer cells can be reached if the cancer has spread. When administered intravenously, treatment is given in hospital. Your doctor will talk to you about the type of chemotherapy drugs you are having and how long your treatment will last.

If you are having chemotherapy at a hospital it usually takes a few hours so patients often like to take someone with them.