Understanding Chemotherapy

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

NOVEMBER 24, 2017

This is probably not anyone's favorite topic, but it is quite important. If you have already experienced chemo, do you understand why and how and what those drugs did? If chemo is part of your future, it behooves you to be well informed. This is a very good explanation from Cancer Net that explains the rationale and the types and some of the mechanisms in ways that we can understand.

For example, did you realize that chemo kills all fast growing cells, and that is why we lose our hair?

Understanding Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. It works by keeping the cancer cells from growing and dividing to make more cells. Because cancer cells usually grow and divide faster than healthy cells, chemotherapy destroys them more quickly than it destroys most healthy cells.

Since the drugs used for chemotherapy are powerful, they cause damage to many growing cells, including some healthy cells. This damage causes the side effects that are linked with chemotherapy (http://www.cancer.net/node/24676). Different types of chemotherapy: Chemotherapy with these powerful drugs is called standard chemotherapy, traditional chemotherapy, or cytotoxic chemotherapy.

Several other types of drugs also treat cancer. Many of the newer drugs are called targeted drugs or targeted therapy. Targeted drugs damage cancer cells by blocking genes or proteins found in the cancer cells. Because these treatments work specifically on the cancer cells, they cause different side effects and usually damage healthy cells less. Other types of cancer therapy include hormones and drugs that work with your immune system to fight cancer, a type a treatment called immunotherapy. Learn more about targeted therapy (http://www.cancer.net/node/24729) and immunotherapy (http://www.cancer.net/node/24726) .

Read more: https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/chemotherapy/understanding-chemotherapy