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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is systematic, unlike surgery and radiotherapy that are locoregional treatments performed particularly to treat cancer confined to one region of the body. Chemotherapy is used to treat not only localized cancers but also to fight metastatic cancers or cancer cells scattered throughout the body.   

What exactly is chemotherapy?  

Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals known as “cancer-killing drugs” in a therapeutic goal. In other words, chemotherapy consists of using powerful drugs to slow or kill cancer cells. In fact, among cancer therapies – surgical therapy, radiotherapy (radiation therapy), immunotherapy and hormone therapy - chemotherapy is the most often used to treat cancer. That is why, although not designated solely for that purpose (see Chemotherapy history), nowadays the term chemotherapy is mainly used to describe cancer treatment.  

Your body consists of organs that work harmoniously to produce vital functions. All these organs are composed of a set of cells; they are the structural, functional and reproductive unit of living being (except for viruses). All these cells divide in a controlled manner, and then trigger their self-destruction in response to a hormonal signal; this normal cell death is called programmed cell death (PCD) or apoptosis. 

There is cancer when certain carcinogenic agents (cigarette smoke, radiation, viruses, mutagenic chemicals, and others) cause some normal cells to mutate (change in the DNA sequence of a cell's genome ), leading to development of malignant tumor (cancer) . Those tumor cells accumulate uncontrollably and refuse to commit suicide.  

The chemicals used in chemotherapy aim to stop or slow down the spread of cancerous cells by preventing their uncontrolled reproduction. Your oncologist may use a drug to prevent this anarchical cellular division; this is monochemotherapy. In some cases he may use several medications to the fight the tumor; in this case, the therapy is called polychemotherapy