What is Chemotherapy? Understands Its Types, Methods, and Benefits


What is Chemotherapy? Understands Its Types, Methods, and Benefits

India is the third most cancer-affected country in the world. According to the National Cancer Registry Programme report, over 13 lakh people in India get diagnosed with cancer each year. A sedentary lifestyle, increased urban pollution, obesity,  tobacco and alcohol consumption etc. are cited as contributing factors to this alarming figure. 

Considering the severity of this disease, the treatment of cancer is initiated by examining its stages, type and resistance power of the body and so on. Having said that Chemotherapy is among the best-known cancer treatments that require your attention. 

This article will help you understand the basic information about chemotherapy and answer a few questions related to it.

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the most advised treatment by health experts to keep cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells. Chemotherapy is administered to curb the growth of cancer cells with the help of drugs. 

Under chemotherapy for cancer, an individual has to undergo the process as part of an overall treatment, which could include surgery and radiation therapy. This treatment has been proven to be effective in many cancer cases. However, the treatment's effect will often vary depending on the stage and type of cancer, among many other factors.

How does Chemotherapy Help in Treating Cancer?

Every time a new cell is formed, it goes through the same process to develop into a mature or fully functional cell. The procedure that has several phases is known as the cell cycle. 

Chemotherapy medications target cells at various cell cycle stages. Knowing how these medications function enables doctors to foresee which drugs would likely interact well. Based on the timing of the cell phases, doctors can also determine how frequently each medication should be administered. 

Chemotherapy medications work better on cancer cells because they frequently divide more quickly than healthy ones. Chemotherapy medications, however, cannot distinguish between cancer cells and healthy ones. In this process, normal cells are usually damaged along with the cancer cells, adversely affecting the therapy. That's why chemotherapy is all about finding a balance between destroying the cancer cells to control or cure the disease. While it is also critical to save the normal cells and avoid the chemotherapy side effects of the procedure.

Main Goals of Chemotherapy

If your health expert has advised chemotherapy as an option for treating cancer, it is recommended to understand the target of the procedure while making decisions. There are three primary goals for chemotherapy for cancer patients. They are:

  • Cure
  • Control
  • Palliation


In the beginning stage of cancer, there is always a possibility of curing cancer. Doctors may describe this treatment with curative intent as most doctors avoid using the word ‘cure’ as there could be possible chances of not getting a proper cure.

Even though the cure is the goal and hope for many, it doesn't always get better that way. It often takes several years to know whether or not a person's cancer is completely cured.


In some cases, the cure is not possible, but the goal of cancer treatment is to control the disease. That’s where the benefits of chemotherapy come to the rescue. In such cases, chemotherapy is used to manage the tumours or stop cancer from spreading. This goal can help the patient feel better and live a quality life. Cancer doesn't go away entirely but can be controlled and managed, and in other cases, cancer may go away for some time, but it may come back again.


Chemotherapy can also be used to alleviate cancer-related symptoms. This is referred to as palliation, palliative chemotherapy, or palliative treatment. 

When the cancer is advanced, likely uncontrollable, and has spread, the goal of chemotherapy may be to improve the person's quality of life or make them feel better. Chemotherapy, for example, may help shrink a tumour causing pain or pressure, allowing the patient to feel better and have less pain.

>>Check Also: Warning Signs of Cancer in Children

Factors that Determine Chemotherapy Plan

Over the years, many drugs have come into existence to treat cancer. The dose, medicines and treatment schedule are dependent upon the following factors:

  • The size and location tell the cancer stage of the tumour and whether or not cancer has spread
  • Age and lifestyle
  • Body weight
  • If a drug causes any side effects, this can also change the  treatment plan
  • If you have any other medical condition
  • Cancer treatments taken previously

Methods of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy methods vary from patient to patient. Below are the chemotherapy methods that would help you understand how does chemotherapy work and types of chemotherapy

Intravenous Chemotherapy(IV): Many medications must be injected directly into a vein. This is known as intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. Treatment can range from a few minutes to several hours. Some IV drugs work better if administered for several days or weeks. You administer them via a small pump that you wear or carry. This is referred to as infusion chemotherapy. 

Oral Chemotherapy: Oral chemotherapy is administered orally. This can be in the form of a pill, capsule, or liquid. This means you can go to the pharmacy, get your medication, and take it home. Oral cancer treatments are becoming more common. Some medicines are administered daily, while others are administered less frequently. Make sure to ask your doctor about the side effects of your drug.

  • Injected Chemotherapy: This method of chemotherapy is received as a shot. The shot could be given in either a muscle or injected under the skin.
  • Arterial Chemotherapy: Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to other body parts. At times chemotherapy is given into an artery that goes directly to where there is cancer. This process is called intra-arterial or IA chemotherapy.
  • Intraperitoneal (IP) Chemotherapy: In this procedure, medication is given directly to your abdomen as this treatment works for cancers that attack the peritoneum. The peritoneum is the tissue that acts as your abdominal wall lining and covers the organs in your stomach.
  • Topical Chemotherapy: Topical medication, also called topical chemotherapy, is a method of skin cancer treatment where a cream or ointment prescribed by the doctor is applied directly to the skin. The goal is to kill the cancerous cells on the skin over time.

How Long Does it Take for Chemotherapy to Work?

Chemotherapy treatment is often administered for a particular period of time, such as six months or a year. Alternatively, you could be given chemotherapy for as long as it is effective. 

Yet, there can be Many anti-cancer drugs have severe side effects to be used daily. Hence, doctors usually administer these medications with breaks so that you can rest and recover before the subsequent treatment. And the break you get after every session allows your healthy cells to regenerate. 

Summing it Up!

The cost of treating cancer is as severe as the disease, for it takes advanced treatment procedures to treat cancer. Even the fittest are vulnerable to this disease,  make sure you do your best before any emergency strikes your door. Being fully armoured with cancer health insurance will save you from shelling out all your savings on the treatment. Cancer Mediclaim from Care Health Insurance offers lifelong cancer protection against major cancer-related treatment expenses at all stages. We believe in providing the necessary care and ensuring patient’s smooth recovery even beyond the post-hospitalization period through Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy coverage. 

>> Click to Know: All You Should Know About Oral Chemotherapy

Disclaimer: The above-mentioned information is for reference purposes only. Please refer to your policy’s fine print if you have any queries.

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