Whether given alone or paired with other treatment options like radiation therapy and surgery, chemotherapy can play an essential role in your cancer treatment plans.

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy, also called “chemo,” destroys, stops or slows the growth of cancer cells using anticancer drugs. While these powerful medications can be effective in killing cancer cells, they can also damage healthy cells in the process.

Your care team may recommend one of two types of approaches: systemic chemotherapy to target cancer cells throughout the body, or regional chemotherapy, which involves targeting the treatment to a certain area of the body.

How Is Chemotherapy Administered?

Chemotherapy is typically administered in an outpatient location, like a hospital or doctor’s office. Treatment can be given:

  • In pill form
  • As an injection
  • Intravenously (into a vein)
  • Intrathecal (into the tissue that covers your brain and spinal cord)
  • Intra-arterial (into an artery)
  • Intraperitoneal (into the area where your intestines, stomach and liver are located)
  • Topically (onto the skin)
  • Directly into the area where the cancer is located







Talk to your care team about the specific chemotherapy drugs you'll be receiving and how they will be administered so you know what to expect.

How Long Does Chemotherapy Take?

Treatment sessions can last for hours at a time, so patients are encouraged to bring books, music or movies—anything that will provide comfort and help pass the time. It is also important to have a friend or family member available to take you to and from each appointment, since it is difficult to gauge how you will feel after treatment.

How Often Is Chemotherapy Given?

Chemotherapy treatment schedules are tailored to each patient. They can occur daily, weekly, every few weeks or monthly, depending on the cancer type and stage. Each treatment is followed by a rest period, giving the body time to recover and rebuild healthy cells.


Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy side effects vary from person to person. By working closely with your doctor and caregiver, it is possible to successfully prepare for and manage any side effects you might experience. Chemo side effects may include:

Talk to your care team about any symptoms you experience so they can suggest supportive care options to help improve your quality of life.

Here are some tips on foods to avoid while undergoing cancer treatment.

How Do You Know Whether Chemotherapy Is Working?

The care team will schedule follow-up visits and tests to evaluate whether the chemotherapy is working to destroy cancer cells and stop spread. Tests may include imaging, blood draws and physical exams. Your care team will provide updates on progress and may adjust the treatment plan if needed.


Learn more about managing chemotherapy side effects


Entender y Manejar Los Efectos Secundarios de la Quimioterapia


瞭解和管理化學 治療副作用

Do You Have an Infusion Pump?

Watch the Mobile Chemotherapy Infusion Pump Education video on how to give yourself an infusion at home.

Watch Video With Spanish Captions

Mire el video educativo de la bomba de infusión de quimioterapia móvil sobre cómo administrarse una infusión en casa.

Watch Video With Chinese Captions


Chemotherapy Education

Ask your health care team for a one-on-one chemotherapy teaching appointment at the clinic. During this education appointment, a nurse will give you important information about your chemotherapy treatment, how to manage side effects of treatment, direct you to resources for information and support and to answer any questions or concerns that you or your family may have. Please call your health care team to schedule a chemotherapy teaching appointment.

Many of the downloadable booklets below are also available in print format at the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center located on City of Hope's Duarte main campus.

Our Department of Supportive Care Medicine provides an integrated, interdisciplinary array of supportive care services and programs that address the many physical and emotional issues that can arise during and after treatment to help you navigate City of Hope and ensure access to the resources you need.

Resources for Support and Information


For treatment to be as effective as possible, patients should try their best to maintain their weight, but this is hard to do when many side effects of treatment negatively impact patients’ ability and desire to eat.

For families and caregivers

A key part of your role is to help identify and address medical symptoms or complications by using the appropriate resources, which means you have to be as informed about the diagnosis and treatment as the patient.

Life During Treatment

Patients about to undergo treatment for an illness often feel overwhelmed with how much they need to learn. The goal is for this page to answer those questions and many more. It’s a resource there for you anytime you need it.

Questions To Ask Your Care Team

When talking with your doctor or another member of the care team, ask specific questions regarding any concerns you may have about your treatment.