Chemotherapy, or "chemo," refers to more than 100 different medications used to treat cancer and other conditions. Ideally, chemotherapy cures cancer. If a cure is not possible, the goals of treatment may be to slow the growth of cancer, keep the cancer from spreading, and/or relieve cancer-associated symptoms (such as pain).
Depending on the type of chemotherapy prescribed, the medications may be given by mouth, injection, intravenously (IV), or topically. IV chemo may be delivered via a catheter or port, which is usually implanted in a blood vessel of the chest for the duration of the therapy. Sometimes chemo is delivered regionally, directly to the area that needs treatment. For example, intravesical therapy is used to infuse chemotherapy directly into the bladder for the treatment of bladder cancer.
The chemo regimen a patient receives depends upon the type and stage of the cancer, any prior cancer treatment, and the overall health of the patient. Chemo is usually administered in cycles over the course of days, weeks, or months, with rest periods in between.