Chemotherapy: What It Involves
Chemotherapy for oral cancer involves the use of anti-cancer drugs.1 Most of these drugs are taken intravenously—in other words, through a tiny tube that is inserted into a vein. But some are taken by mouth.2,1
Commonly Used Drugs
These are some of the drugs most often used to treat oral cancer:
These drugs can be taken alone. But for greater effect, two or more drugs may be combined. One widely used combination is cisplatin and 5-FU. Studies have shown that this combination works better than either drug alone for shrinking oral tumors. But the effect may be temporary because cancer can become resistant to the drugs over time.1
Where and When
You may receive chemotherapy in a hospital outpatient unit, at a doctor’s office, or at home. Occasionally, you might need to stay overnight at the hospital. Some places have private treatment rooms, while others treat many patients together in one big room. Talk with your doctor before your first treatment so you know what to expect.3
How often you get chemotherapy treatments and how long each one lasts can vary. Timing is affected by your treatment goals, the drugs used, and your body’s response. You might get treatments daily, weekly, or monthly. But they usually are given with rest breaks in between. This gives your body time to build healthy new cells.3
1 “Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Chemotherapy.” American Cancer Society, September 24, 2009. www.cancer.org/Cancer/OralCavityandOropharyngealCancer/DetailedGuide/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer-treating-chemotherapy. Accessed 2010.
2 “How Will the Chemotherapy Treatment Be Given to Me?” American Cancer Society, November 2, 2009. www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/TreatmentTypes/Chemotherapy/UnderstandingChemotherapyAGuideforPatientsandFamilies/understanding-chemotherapy-how-will-i-get-chemo. Accessed 2010.
3 “Where Will I Get Chemotherapy?” American Cancer Society, November 2,2009. www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/TreatmentTypes/Chemotherapy/UnderstandingChemotherapyAGuideforPatientsandFamilies/understanding-chemotherapy-where-and-how-long-will-i-get-chemo. Accessed 2010.