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Chemotherapy Drug Doses and Schedules: How They Are Determined

How Chemo Doses Are Determined

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© American Cancer Society 2010

Depending on the drug(s) to be given, there are different ways to determine chemotherapy doses. Most chemotherapy doses are measured in milligrams (mg).

The overall dose is sometimes based on a person's body weight in kilograms (1 kilogram is 2.2 pounds). For instance, if the standard dose of a drug is 10 milligrams per kilogram (10 mg/kg), a person weighing 50 kilograms (110 pounds) would receive 500 mg (50 kg x 10 mg/kg).

Some chemotherapy doses are determined based on body surface area, which doctors calculate using your height and weight and which is expressed in meters squared (m2).

Dosages for children and adults differ, even after BSA is taken into account. This is because children's bodies process drugs differently. They may have different levels of sensitivity to the drugs as well. For similar reasons, dosages of some drugs may also be adjusted for people who:

  • are elderly
  • have poor nutritional status
  • are obese
  • have already taken or are currently taking other medications.
  • have already received or are currently receiving radiation therapy.
  • have low blood cell counts.
  • have liver or kidney diseases.


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