What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a category of medicines that destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing and spreading.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is medicine you receive before surgery to help shrink a tumor. Adjuvant chemotherapy is medicine you receive after surgery to help rid the body of any cancer cells remaining after surgery.
Chemotherapy is one way doctors treat cancer. Your doctor may also recommend cancer immunotherapy or targeted therapy drugs.
How to talk to your doctor about chemotherapy
Your care team will consider many factors (such as the type of cancer and your overall health) when deciding which chemotherapy drugs are right for you. You might receive one or more chemotherapy drugs at one time.
Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy in combination with cancer surgery, radiation therapy or other cancer treatments.
Before you start chemotherapy, our team will sit down with you to explain what your treatment entails and what you can expect, such as potential chemotherapy side effects.
We encourage you to ask questions at any time. Bringing a family member or friend along to your appointments can help you remember treatment details or key points you wanted to address.
We offer a wealth of resources to help you manage treatment side effects and cope with the ways cancer impacts your life. Read more about patient and family services during cancer care and our Supportive Cancer Care Clinic.
Chemotherapy: What to expect
Chemotherapy is a systemic cancer treatment. Chemotherapy drugs travel through your bloodstream to treat cancer throughout the body.
You might receive chemotherapy via:
- Infusion: A nurse places an IV into a vein in your hand or arm. Medicine enters your bloodstream through the IV and travels throughout your body.
- Port: A radiologist or surgeon places a chemotherapy port (a small device connected to a flexible tube) under your skin, in the upper chest or just below your collarbone. The port acts as a semi-permanent IV so that a nurse can more easily deliver medication without repeated needle sticks or damage to your veins.
- Central line: A surgeon places a long, thin tube under the skin (in the neck, chest or arm). A nurse uses this tube (also called a catheter) to deliver medication.
- Pills: Some chemotherapy medications come in pills or capsules you swallow (called oral chemotherapy).
- Under the skin: A member of our care team injects medicine right under your skin (between skin and muscle tissue). This is called subcutaneous delivery.
- Breathing in: Some chemotherapy drugs can be inhaled. Breathing in the treatment can deliver medicine directly to an affected area, such as your lungs.
About our infusion center
You can receive all chemotherapy services in the infusion center at Mays Cancer Center. Our infusion center is set up with comfortable chairs, televisions, Wi-Fi and ample space for you to bring a family member or friend along for support.
Our doctors and oncology-trained nurses have decades of experience working with all types of chemotherapy drugs. They use this in-depth knowledge to help you avoid or manage any chemotherapy side effects, such as nausea.
Why choose us for chemotherapy?
Highlights of our program include:
- Commitment to excellence: As the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center in Central and South Texas, we excel in cancer care. Our team includes national leaders who seek new ways to improve cancer care through research efforts. More than 20 cancer drugs that are commonly used today were developed at our center.
- Leading therapies: Our internationally recognized research program ensures you receive the standard of care plus new treatment options for which you may be eligible. Your doctor can explain how one or more clinical trials may enhance your treatment. Clinical trials provide access to promising new therapies that aren’t yet widely available. Learn more about clinical trial treatments.
- Coordinated care: You can receive all chemotherapy services at Mays Cancer Center in San Antonio. Your doctors and support professionals work together to address the many aspects of your care (like coordinating multiple treatments or check-ins with your care team). This approach means you can focus more time on the things you love.
- Personalized treatment plan: Cancer doctors with different areas of expertise meet often to discuss your care. They determine which therapies (and in which order) are most appropriate for your needs and the type of cancer you have.
Types of cancer we treat
We have decades of experience treating all types and stages of cancer, including rare and complex tumors. Our specialists work together to determine which chemotherapy drugs or combination of treatments are best for your situation.
Find out more about the cancer types we treat.