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 come from natural sources such as plants, while others are completely made in a laboratory. Watch video on chemotherapy now.
Learn more about:
- Common questions about chemotherapy
- Chemotherapy treatment explained
- Chemotherapy safety
- Is the treatment working?
- Managing chemotherapy side effects
- Life after chemotherapy
- Video: What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy for children
This information is for adults having chemotherapy, although some of the information will also be relevant for children. Ask your doctor for specific information about chemotherapy for children.
For age-appropriate support and resources, contact:
- Camp Quality – supports children aged 0–13 and their families. Call 1300 662 267.
- CanTeen – supports young people aged 12–25 who have been affected by cancer Call 1800 226 833.
- Redkite – supports those aged under 24 and their families. Call 1800 733 548.
- See our section on Talking to kids about cancer.
Video: What is chemotherapy?
Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Julie Bolton, Consumer; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; John Jameson, Consumer; Dr Zarnie Lwin, Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Felicia Roncolato, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment