Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is sometimes given after surgery for colorectal cancer to try to prevent the disease from recurring, or coming back. This additional treatment is called adjuvant therapy. The doctor may use one drug or a combination of drugs.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are sometimes given to shrink the tumor prior to surgery.

Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles: a treatment period followed by a recovery period, then another treatment period, and so on. Anticancer drugs may be taken by mouth or given by injection into a blood vessel or body cavity. Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy, meaning that the drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body.

Here are some questions you may want to ask about chemotherapy:

    * What is the goal of this treatment?
    * What drugs will I be taking? What will they do?
    * Will the drugs cause side effects? What can I do about them?
    * How long will I need to take this treatment?

Researchers are studying ways of putting chemotherapy drugs directly into the area to be treated. For colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver, drugs can be injected into a blood vessel that leads directly to the liver. (This treatment is called intrahepatic chemotherapy.) Researchers are also investigating a method in which the doctor puts anticancer drugs directly into the abdomen during or after surgery. (This is called intraperitoneal chemotherapy.)

Usually a person has chemotherapy as an outpatient at the hospital, at the doctor’s office or at home. However, depending on which drugs are given, how they are given, and the patient’s general health, a short hospital stay may be necessary.



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