retrieved from
Team 12
Jessica LeBlanc - researcher, author
Natalie Krutila - researcher, author
Rheannon Stallaert - reseacher, author
Huang- researcher, author

What is Cancer?
Cancer is a serious disease in which cells grow abnormally fast out of control, and are able to harm other tissues (National Cancer Institute, 2009). Usually, cells grow and divide depending on how many cells the body needs to keep healthy. However, sometimes DNA in the cells becomes damaged; creating mutations which influence the cells' normal growth and division (National Cancer Institute, 2009). Thus, new cells which the body doesn’t need will be produced and form a tumour (National Cancer Institute, 2009). There are two types of tumours. These types include benign tumours and malignant tumours. Benign tumours can be eliminated and do not spread to other tissues (National Cancer Institute, 2009). On the other hand, malignant tumours are cancerous, and they can harm and spread to other tissues (National Cancer Institute, 2009). Therefore, treatments need to be used to prevent the spread of malignant tumours and cure cancer. Chemotherapy is one type of treatment which uses drugs to kill the cancer cells (National Cancer Institute, 2007). Next, the use of chemotherapy, the process of chemotherapy and the side effects of chemotherapy will be discussed.

What is Chemotherapy and its Uses?

Chemotherapy is known as a chemical treatment (Chemocare, 2009). It started being used in the 1940’s with the use of nitrogen mustard, also known as mustard gas (Chemocare, 2009). Since the use of this chemical, there have been different inventions in terms of drugs used in an attempt to find a more effective cancer treatment (Chemocare, 2009). Chemotherapy is the process used to kill or disable cancer causing cells (Chemocare, 2009). Chemotherapy affects the whole body because it enters the body and travels through the blood stream (Breastcancer, 2009). This treatment destroys harmful cells but can also create a hazard to the good cells. Chemotherapy can be used to cure specific types of cancer, control the growth of or shrink tumours, provide relief from pain or to remove cancer cells (Chemocare, 2009). Chemotherapy takes the form of different drugs used in an attempt to provide relief for patients as well as possibly providing a cure.

The Chemotherapy Process

Step 1: Blood tests

Prior to chemotherapy treatment, a series of blood tests must be run (Sherwood, 2009). These blood tests determine the risks and the benefits of taking chemotherapy for the patient (Sherwood, 2009). The blood test focuses on blood counts and liver health (Sherwood, 2009). Blood counts indicate if the immune system is healthy enough to aid in the healing process after chemotherapy is administered, while the liver results indicate whether the liver is healthy enough to remove chemotherapy toxins from the body (Sherwood, 2009). If either of these results are off and the patient is healthy enough to wait for treatment, treatment may be held until results improve (Sherwood, 2009).
Step 2: Administration of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy kills both healthy cells and cancerous cells, as it cannot differentiate between the two (Sherwood, 2009). Chemotherapy medications attack all cells that multiply quickly by altering the cell’s structure so it can no longer multiply (Sherwood, 2009). Once it is determined that the patient is healthy enough to undergo treatment, the treatment method is decided. There are several ways chemotherapy drugs can be administered to the patient.
Oral Medications
Some forms of chemotherapy are administered orally as pills or tablets (Sherwood 2009). The drugs are absorbed into the blood stream where they are delivered to all parts of the body (Sherwood, 2009).
Intravenous Medications
Chemotherapy can also be administered intravenously (Sherwood, 2009). This method involves either an injection or a cannula that introduces the drug directly into the vein (Sherwood, 2009). This method allows the medication to drip slowly and directly into the patient’s bloodstream (Sherwood, 2009).
Implanted Port
Chemotherapy drugs may also be administered through an implanted port (Sherwood, 2009). A port is a device implanted permanently under the skin connecting to a vein (Sherwood, 2009). This method allows medication to be administered directly into the blood stream. The benefit of using an implanted pump is that it reduces the number of injections needed and a patient can receive treatment at home with the use of a special pump (Sherwood, 2009). Once the treatment is complete, the pump may be removed (Sherwood, 2009).
A catheter is a tube system that allows medication to be administered to the body. There are two types of catheters that can be used to administer chemotherapy. A catheter can be directly connected to a vein near the heart, called a skin tunnelled catheter, or directly connected to a vein in the arm, called a peripherally inserted central catheter (Sherwood, 2009). Similarly to a port, a catheter reduces the number of injections needed, and can be left in until treatment is complete.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy

The many side effects of chemotherapy do not always apply to everyone; it can depend on the type of medicine given and the individual's tolerance to the treatment (Canadian Cancer Society, 2008). Side effects will mostly occur during a person’s treatment schedule (Canadian Cancer Society, 2008). Most side effects will stop after treatment is terminated; however, it is possible that some side effects can be permanent (Canadian Cancer Society, 2008). A very common side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss. Hair loss can happen one of two ways, either it will happen slowly or quickly (Canadian Cancer Society, 2008). Hair loss occurs on the entire body (Canadian Cancer Society, 2008). There are many ways to overcome hair loss, including wigs and scarves. A person needs to figure out what they are most comfortable with showing when hair loss has occurred. Another common side effect is nausea and vomiting. This is often thought of when discussing chemotherapy. This side effect can happen anytime throughout the chemotherapy process (, 2008). It is usually caused by the initial interaction with the drugs (, 2008). Now, this side effect has been reviewed and there are now special drugs given to relieve nausea (, 2008). A chemotherapy patient is also very susceptible to infection because chemotherapy wipes out healthy cells in the process of killing cancerous cells, weakening the patient's immune system. Chemotherapy patients must be aware of possible side effects and monitor their health throughout the chemotherapy process to catch possibly dangerous side effects.

Chemotherapy is a trusted and valid option in battling cancer. There are many ways of administering the chemotherapy and yes, there are some side effects that do occur, however the benefits of chemotherapy still outnumber the risks. There are many additional websites that can answer all possible questions about chemotherapy.

Article of Interest


Breast Cancer (2009). Chemotherapy. Retrieved from

Canadian Cancer Society (2008). Side effects of chemotherapy. Retrieved from

Canadian Cancer Society (2008). Hair loss. Retrieved from

Chemocare (2009). What is chemotherapy. Retrieved from (2008). Chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. Retrieved from

National Cancer Institute (2007). Question and answers about chemotherapy. Retrieved from

National Cancer Institute (2009). What is cancer. Retrieved from

Sherwood, C. (2009). The process of chemotherapy. Retrieved from