10 things to know about chemotherapy

Starting chemotherapy for the first time? If you are new to this common cancer treatment, you're probably wondering how chemotherapy works, if you will lose your hair or even if chemotherapy hurts. We spoke with Mariela Blum-Murphy, M.D., to learn more. Here’s what she had to say. What is chemotherapy? Chemotherapy is a group of medications that can shrink or destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is used in a variety of ways. It may be given to rid the body of cancer, to shrink cancer so that surgery can be performed, or to control the disease and prolong someone’s life as long as possible. How does chemotherapy work? There are multiple types of chemotherapy, and each kind works a bit differently. In general, chemotherapy attacks rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. Chemotherapy alters a cancer cell’s ability to grow or replicate itself. It can cause the cancer cell to die by not functioning properly or stop it from spreading by interfering with its ability to reproduce. How are chemotherapy drugs usually given? Most chemotherapy drugs are given through an IV, but some are injected into muscle, under the skin or directly into the spinal fluid. Other chemotherapy drugs can be swallowed in pill form. Chemotherapy is often given in combination with other chemotherapy drugs or with other treatments, such as targeted therapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy.    Does chemotherapy hurt? IV chemotherapy should not cause any pain while being administered. If you experience pain, contact the nurse taking care of you to check your IV line. An exception would be if there is a leak and the drug gets...