Colorectal Cancer Program

Chemotherapy FAQs

What are the goals of chemotherapy?

The goals of chemotherapy are cure, control or palliation.

  • Cure: Some cancers may be cured with the use of chemotherapy alone or in combination with other treatment modalities. Neo-adjuvant therapy is used to shrink a tumor before surgery or radiation. Adjuvant therapy is the use of chemotherapy in conjunction with a primary treatment (surgery and/or radiation) in an attempt to eliminate undetectable spread and increase the chance of cure. Cancer is considered cured when you are free of the evidence of cancer cells.
  • Control: When cure is not a realistic goal, chemotherapy may be used to control the disease. The aim is to extend length and quality of life by preventing the development of new symptoms or problems.
  • Palliation: When neither cure nor control is possible, chemotherapy may be used to reduce the tumor burden and related symptoms and possibly improve the quality of life.

Where will I receive chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy will be provided at The Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment or your doctor’s office. It may also be received at home or even in a hospital as an “inpatient.” The choice of where you receive chemotherapy depends on the drugs you will receive and your physician’s wishes. Most patients are not hospitalized, but there are times that a short course of hospitalization is necessary to closely monitor any reactions to new medications and make the proper adjustments.

How often will I receive chemotherapy?

How often and for how long you receive chemotherapy depends on the stage of your cancer, the goals of treatment, the drugs that are used and how your body responds to them.

How will I know if the chemotherapy is working?

Your physician will conduct physical exams and tests often to see how your treatments are doing. Ask your doctor about the test results and what they show about your progress. Never judge how you are doing by your side effects. Some people believe if they have no side-effects, the drugs are not working, or if they have side effects the drugs are working very well. Remember that side effects vary from drug to drug and from person to person and are not a sign of whether treatments are working.

Can I work while receiving chemotherapy?

Most people receiving chemotherapy tire easily but continue to work. Often they need to change their work schedule for a while if they experience fatigue or other side effects. You may need to talk to your employer about your needs. You may be able to work part-time or do some of your work at home. Under federal and some state laws, some employers may be required to let you work a flexible schedule. Check the Human Resources department of your work place for work-related concerns.

What are the common side effects?

The most common side-effects of chemotherapy are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Increased chance of bruising and bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Infection
  • Hair loss