Chemotherapy can be administered in a variety of ways. Find out about chemotherapy types.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Chemotherapy is drug treatment to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs may be delivered to cancer cells in a variety of ways, including:

  • Chemotherapy infusions. Chemotherapy is most often given as an infusion into a vein (intravenously). The drugs can be given by inserting a tube with a needle into a vein in your arm or into a device in a vein in your chest.
  • Chemotherapy pills. Some chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill or capsule form.
  • Chemotherapy shots. Chemotherapy drugs can be injected with a needle, just as you would receive a shot.
  • Chemotherapy creams. Creams or gels containing chemotherapy drugs can be applied to the skin to treat certain types of skin cancer.
  • Chemotherapy drugs used to treat one area of the body. Chemotherapy drugs can be given directly to one area of the body. For instance, chemotherapy drugs can be given directly in the abdomen (intraperitoneal chemotherapy), chest cavity (intrapleural chemotherapy) or central nervous system (intrathecal chemotherapy). Chemotherapy can also be given through the urethra into the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy).
  • Chemotherapy given directly to the cancer. Chemotherapy can be given directly to the cancer or, after surgery, where the cancer once was. As an example, thin disk-shaped wafers containing chemotherapy drugs can be placed near a tumor during surgery. The wafers break down over time, releasing chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy may also be injected into a vein or artery that directly feeds a tumor.

The chemotherapy type you'll receive depends on many factors, including your type of cancer and its stage. Ask your doctor what you can expect during chemotherapy treatment.

Mar. 25, 2014