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What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in the body. It is one of the primary and most well-known methods of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy is used to:

  1. Shrink Tumors: Chemotherapy can be used to reduce the size of tumors before surgery or radiation therapy, making these treatments more effective.
  2. Cure Cancer: In some cases, chemotherapy can completely eliminate cancer from the body, leading to a cure.
  3. Control Cancer: For cancers that cannot be completely cured, chemotherapy can help control the disease, slow its progression, and alleviate symptoms.
  4. Palliative Care: Chemotherapy can also be used in palliative care to ease symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with advanced cancer.

How Does Chemotherapy Treat Cancer?

Chemotherapy treats cancer by using powerful drugs to target and destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells in the body. Here’s how chemotherapy works to combat cancer:

  1. Disrupting Cell Division: Cancer cells are characterized by uncontrolled and rapid division. Chemotherapy drugs are designed to interfere with the process of cell division. They disrupt the genetic material within cells (DNA or RNA) or block certain enzymes essential for cell growth.
  2. Attacking Cancer Cells: Chemotherapy drugs are administered systemically, either intravenously (IV), orally, or through other methods. Once in the bloodstream, they circulate throughout the body, seeking out and attacking cancer cells.
  3. Killing or Inhibiting Cancer Cells: Depending on the specific chemotherapy drug, they can either kill cancer cells outright or slow down their growth. Some chemotherapy drugs work by damaging the DNA or RNA within the cancer cells, preventing them from reproducing.
  4. Affecting Different Phases of Cell Division: Different chemotherapy drugs work at different phases of the cell cycle. Some drugs primarily target cells in the resting phase, while others affect cells in the process of dividing. This diversity allows for a comprehensive approach to attacking cancer cells.
  5. Combating Metastasis: Chemotherapy is particularly effective against cancer cells that have spread from the primary tumor to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis. This is a crucial aspect of chemotherapy’s role in cancer treatment.
  6. Adjuvant or Neoadjuvant Therapy: Chemotherapy can be used as an adjuvant therapy after surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells or as neoadjuvant therapy before surgery to shrink tumors and make them more operable.


What Are The Goals of Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a versatile cancer treatment that can be employed with different goals, depending on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and specific needs. The primary goals of chemotherapy includes: Cure, Control, Shrink Tumors, Palliative Care, Prevent Recurrence, Relieve Symptoms. The specific goal of chemotherapy is determined through a careful evaluation by an oncology team, taking into account the patient’s unique circumstances, the type and stage of cancer, and the potential benefits and risks of treatment.

What Are The Side Effects of Chemotherapy?

While chemotherapy is a powerful tool in the fight against cancer, it can also affect healthy cells that divide rapidly. This can lead to a range of side effects, which can vary depending on the drugs used and the individual’s response. Common side effects of chemotherapy may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Mouth sores
  • Changes in appetite
  • Cognitive changes (sometimes referred to as “chemo brain”)

It’s important to note that many side effects are temporary and can be managed with medications and supportive care.


How Long Will Need Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is often given for a specific time, such as 6 months or a year. Or you might receive chemotherapy for as long as it works. However the duration of chemotherapy treatment varies widely and depends on several factors, including:

  1. Type and Stage of Cancer: The specific type and stage of cancer significantly influence the duration of chemotherapy. More aggressive or advanced cancers may require longer treatment regimens.
  2. Treatment Goals: The goals of chemotherapy, whether it’s for cure, control, or palliative care, play a crucial role in determining treatment duration.
  3. Chemotherapy Drugs: Different chemotherapy drugs have varying treatment schedules. Some drugs are administered daily, while others are given weekly or in cycles over several weeks.
  4. Response to Treatment: The individual patient’s response to chemotherapy is a critical factor. If the cancer responds well to treatment, the duration may be shorter, whereas if the response is slower or less effective, treatment may need to be extended.
  5. Adjuvant or Neoadjuvant Therapy: Chemotherapy given before or after surgery or radiation therapy may have a specific treatment duration based on the overall treatment plan.
  6. Tolerance and Side Effects: The occurrence of side effects and the patient’s ability to tolerate treatment can impact the duration of chemotherapy. If side effects are severe, treatment may be temporarily halted or modified.
  7. Clinical Trials: Participation in clinical trials may involve experimental treatments with specific timelines.


The duration of each cycle and the number of cycles required can vary. For some cancers, chemotherapy may be administered for a few months, while for others, it may continue for several years.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a systemic cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy or inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It is administered orally, intravenously, or through other routes to reach cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy can be used as a primary treatment or in combination with other treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy.

What Types of Cancer Are Treated With Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy can be used to treat various types of cancer, including but not limited to breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer. The specific type of cancer and its stage help determine if chemotherapy is an appropriate treatment option.

What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy can cause side effects as it affects both cancer cells and normal cells. Common side effects may include fatigue, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, weakened immune system, increased susceptibility to infections, anemia, and changes in fertility or menstrual cycle. However, it’s important to note that not all individuals experience the same side effects, and advancements in supportive care have helped in managing and minimizing these effects.

Is Chemotherapy The Only Treatment Option For Cancer?

No, chemotherapy is one of several treatment options available for cancer. The choice of treatment depends on factors such as the type and stage of cancer, the individual’s overall health, and their treatment preferences. Other treatment modalities, such as surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of treatments, may also be used alone or in conjunction with chemotherapy.

Does Chemotherapy Guarantee A Cure For Cancer?

The effectiveness of chemotherapy in curing cancer varies depending on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, individual response to treatment, and other patient-specific characteristics. Chemotherapy can lead to remission or complete eradication of cancer cells in some cases, while in others, it may help control the disease, alleviate symptoms, or extend life expectancy. The treatment outcomes are best discussed with your oncologist, who can provide personalized information based on your specific diagnosis and treatment plan.

What Is Radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy, also known as radiation therapy, is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It works by damaging the DNA of cancer cells, making it difficult for them to divide and grow. Radiotherapy can be delivered externally (external beam radiation) or internally (brachytherapy) depending on the type and location of the cancer.

What Types of Cancer Are Treated With Radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy can be used to treat various types of cancer. It is commonly employed in the treatment of solid tumors such as breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, head and neck cancers, and brain tumors. It can also be used to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life in advanced or metastatic cancers.

Is Radiotherapy Used Alone or In Combination With Other Treatments?

Radiotherapy can be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with other cancer treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy. The decision depends on factors such as the type and stage of cancer, location and size of the tumor, and individual patient characteristics. The treatment plan is determined based on a multidisciplinary approach involving oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other specialists.

How Long Does A Radiotherapy Treatment Course Typically Last?

The duration of radiotherapy treatment varies depending on the type and stage of cancer, the treatment intent (curative or palliative), and the radiation technique used. Some patients receive a few treatments over a week or two, while others may require daily treatments for several weeks. Your radiation oncologist will discuss the treatment schedule and duration specific to your condition.

How Effective Is Radiotherapy in Treating Cancer?

The effectiveness of radiotherapy depends on several factors, including the type, stage, and location of the cancer, as well as individual patient characteristics. Radiotherapy can be curative, aiming to eliminate the cancer completely, or it can be palliative, focusing on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life. The treatment outcomes are best discussed with your radiation oncologist, who can provide personalized information based on your specific diagnosis and treatment plan.

What Is Surgical Treatment?

Surgical treatment refers to medical procedures that involve the use of instruments or techniques to physically intervene or modify the body for therapeutic purposes. It is a branch of medicine that focuses on the operative management of diseases, conditions, or injuries.

Surgical treatment may be recommended for various reasons. It can be utilized to remove tumors, repair or replace damaged organs or tissues, improve functionality, alleviate symptoms, correct anatomical abnormalities, or restore normal bodily functions. The decision to undergo surgery depends on factors such as the nature of the condition, its severity, and the potential benefits and risks of the procedure.

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