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Basic Information About Chemotherapy


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Chemotherapy (often referred to as "Chemo") is the use of drugs to treat disease. 

Chemotherapy has one of three goals: cure, remission, or palliation (relief of pain).  

The use of drugs to treat cancer started after World War II when it was realized that Mustard Gas affected cancer cells.

Chemotherapy is aimed at rapidly reproducing cells. Different drugs work on different cyles of cell reproduction.

A single drug can be used to treat cancer. However, for the most part, a combination of drugs with different actions can work together to kill more cancer cells. (The use of more than one drug in chemotherapy is called combination chemotherapy.)  A combination can also reduce the chance that the cancer may become resistant to any one chemo drug. More than 100 chemo drugs are used in many combinations.

Chemo is sometimes used alone. More often it is used in combination with other treatments such as surgery or radiation. When used with other treatments, chemotherapy is known as neoadjuvant therapy (before surgery or radiation), or as adjuvant therapy (after surgery or radiation).

Chemotherapy is also known as: Chemo, Antineoplastic (meaning anti-cancer) therapy, and Cytotoxic (cell-killing) therapy.

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