What is chemotherapy?

Together with surgery and radiotherapy, chemotherapy is one of the 3 main ways in which cancer is treated. Often known simply as ‘chemo’, they are medicines used to destroy or stop the growth of cancer cells.

Types of chemotherapy

There are various ways in which chemotherapy can be given.

Purpose of chemotherapy:

  • Curative chemotherapy in the treatment of chemo-sensitive, curable cancers such as lymphoma, germ cell tumours and leukemia
  • Palliative chemotherapy for advanced cancers aimed at killing the cancer cells, controlling disease, preserving quality of life and prolonging overall survival
  • High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell rescue

Timing of chemotherapy:

  • Upfront or induction chemotherapy to shrink the tumour size before definitive local treatment with either surgery or radiotherapy
  • Concurrent chemo-radiation where the drugs are used together with radiation to improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy
  • Adjuvant chemotherapy (therapy after the initial treatment of cancer to prevent recurrence of the tumour) where the drugs are given after surgery or radiotherapy to treat micro-metastases (tumours) which cannot be seen, so that patients will have a higher chance of cure

Your doctor may recommend the strategic use of chemotherapy treatment to kill cancer cells or a combination of one or more other treatments, depending on how far the cancer has spread.

Why do you need chemotherapy?

The goal of chemotherapy is to cure your cancer and prolong your life span. If a cure is not possible, chemotherapy may help to shrink the cancer or slow its growth. This is to allow you to live symptom-free for as long as possible.

Chemotherapy can:

  • Eliminate any remaining cancer cells in the body after surgery and radiotherapy
  • Reduce the risk of cancer relapse to a different part of your body
  • Kill the cancer cells and slow down its growth

An ideal treatment option will be selected based on the type of cancer, its location, stage of the cancer and other patient factors.

What are the risks and complications of chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is often maligned due to its range of possible side effects, which may affect a patient’s quality of life. Nowadays, the newer chemotherapy agents, as well as supportive medicines used, are very effective in reducing side effects for the patient.

Common side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nerve damage

With advances in cancer treatment, newer chemotherapies are more effective and offer improved overall results with fewer side effects.

Why choose Gleneagles Hospital

Established for more than 60 years in Singapore, Gleneagles Hospital provides trusted healthcare with the needs of our patients in mind. We understand that battling cancer is emotionally, physically and psychologically challenging for both the patient and caregiver.

Our oncologists work with surgeons, radiotherapists, specialty nurses and counsellors in a multi-disciplinary care team to provide holistic care to you.

We aim to help you navigate cancer treatment with success and regain your quality of life.

Estimated cost

Private healthcare can be affordable. Use our Hospital Bill Estimator to determine the estimated cost of this procedure. If you have hospital insurance, find out how you can use your insurance.

Our medical oncologists

Our cancer specialists are skilled and sub-specialised in the treatment of a range of cancers. We will help you select a suitable combination of treatments to match your goals and support you throughout your cancer journey.

Please check with your insurance provider for more information, and for their most up-to-date list of panel doctors.

^Specialists may qualify to be on the Extended Panel (EP). You may enjoy selected panel benefits depending on your policy and riders.
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