Chemotherapy (sometimes just called ‘chemo’) is the use of drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. The drugs are called cytotoxics, which means toxic to cells (cyto). Some of these drugs are obtained from natural sources such as plants, while others are completely created in a laboratory. Watch video on chemotherapy now.

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Questions for your doctor

You may find this checklist helpful when thinking about the questions you want to ask your doctor about having chemotherapy. If your doctor gives you answers that you don’t understand, ask for clarification.

  • Why do I need chemotherapy?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of chemotherapy for me?
  • How successful is chemotherapy for the type of cancer I have?
  • What is the goal of this chemotherapy?
  • Are there any other treatments I can have instead?
  • Is there any targeted therapy for the type of cancer I have?
  • How much does treatment cost?
  • What drugs will I be receiving? How will they be given?
  • How often will I receive chemotherapy? How long will I have treatment? How will you decide the dosage?
  • Which clinical guidelines are you following?
  • Where will I have chemotherapy? Can I have it close to where I live?
  • What are the possible side effects of this treatment and what can I do to control them?
  • Are there any complementary therapies that may help?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • Will chemotherapy affect my sex life and fertility?
  • After treatment has finished, will I need check-ups?
  • Who should I contact for information or if I have a problem during treatment? Who is my after-hours contact?
Read more questions for your doctor

Chemotherapy for children

This information has been written primarily for adults having chemotherapy, although some of the information will also be relevant for children. Talk to your treatment team for specific information about chemotherapy for children. You might also want to get in touch with Camp Quality or CanTeen for age-appropriate resources and support:

  • Camp Quality – for children aged 0–13 who are living with cancer and their families. Call 1300 662 267 or visit
  • CanTeen – for young people aged 12–24 who have been affected by cancer. Call 1800 226 833 or visit

Video: What is chemotherapy?

If you have cancer, chemotherapy may play a big role in your treatment plan. Watch this short video to learn more about chemotherapy, its role, how you get it, and possible side effects.

This information was last reviewed in August 2016
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