Health A-Z

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What Is It?

Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing and dividing. Chemotherapy drugs are also called anti-cancer drugs.

Chemotherapy drugs can shrink or limit the size of cancerous tumors. They may also prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

There are more than 80 anti-cancer drugs. Cancer treatment often requires a combination of two or more different drugs. Cancer specialists design chemotherapy plans based on the cancer being treated and how far the cancer has spread.

Chemotherapy drugs reach almost all parts of the body. This helps to kill cancer cells that have spread from the original site of the cancer. It also allows the drugs to kill cancer cells that are too small to detect on diagnostic tests.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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