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Rectal Cancer Chemotherapy

As one of the treatments for rectal cancer, chemotherapy uses drugs to halt the growth of cancerous cells. Chemotherapy may be administered orally, injected into a vein or muscle, or placed directly in the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity. Side effects of chemotherapy may include an increased risk of infections, fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and mouth sores.

An Overview of Rectal Cancer Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a rectal cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing.
When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly in the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is administered depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Although rectal cancer chemotherapy is often an outpatient treatment that is given at the hospital, clinic, doctor's office, or home, the patient may need to stay in the hospital for treatment.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy for Rectal Cancer

The side effects of chemotherapy will depend on the drugs and the doses that the patient receives. Side effects are different for each patient.
The chemotherapy used for rectal cancer affects rapidly dividing cells throughout the body, including blood cells. Blood cells fight infection, help the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When anticancer drugs damage blood cells, patients are more likely to:
  • Get infections
  • Bruise or bleed easily
  • Have less energy.
Other cells that may be affected include the cells in hair roots and the cells that line the digestive tract. As a result, patients may lose their hair and have a poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, or mouth sores. In most cases, these side effects will go away during the recovery periods between treatments or after treatment is complete.
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