In people with cancer, chemotherapy may be used:

  • To kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be used as the primary or sole treatment for cancer. In some cases, chemotherapy is used with the goal of curing your cancer. In other cases, chemotherapy may be used with the aim of slowing the cancer's growth.
  • After other treatments to kill hidden cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be used after other treatments, such as surgery, to kill any cancer cells that might remain in the body. Doctors call this adjuvant therapy.
  • To prepare you for other treatments. Chemotherapy can be used to shrink a tumor so that other treatments, such as radiation and surgery, are possible. Doctors call this neoadjuvant therapy.
  • To ease signs and symptoms. Chemotherapy may help relieve signs and symptoms of advanced cancer, such as pain. This is called palliative chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy for conditions other than cancer

Some chemotherapy drugs have proved useful in treating other conditions, such as:

  • Bone marrow diseases. Diseases that affect the bone marrow and blood cells may be treated with a bone marrow stem cell transplant. Chemotherapy is often used to prepare for a bone marrow stem cell transplant.
  • Immune system disorders. Lower doses of chemotherapy drugs can help control the immune system in certain diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
May. 05, 2011