Chemotherapy is given for the purpose of reducing cancer recurrence after initial surgery is done to remove it. Despite the best surgeries, cancer can still recur as the cells may have already gone to other parts of the body and escaped detection from initial scans. Secondly, chemotherapy forms the main modality of treatment for cancers that have already spread, where surgery is generally not indicated. Lastly, chemotherapy may also be given as the first treatment for certain breast and rectal cancers to shrink the cancer before surgery for better outcomes for the patients.
Chemotherapy can be administered through a vein as an infusion, given orally in the form of pills. This will be delivered throughout the body in the blood stream and kill cancer cells both in the original tumour and also in the tumours that had spread. Sometimes chemotherapy may be injected into specific body compartments for more targeted delivery of the drug for specific cancers.
The choice of therapy will depend on the cancer type and also the general health condition of the individual. This will then determine the duration and the timing of intervals for each administration either through the vein or by mouth. The design of more recent drugs has been targeting the cancer cells more specifically thereby reducing the chances of side effects. Side effects of chemotherapy can generally be effectively managed with modern supportive therapies.