Chemotherapy for Children

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy refers to the use of drugs to treat cancer. Chemotherapy has been used for many years and is one of the most common treatments for cancer. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce. Certain chemotherapy drugs may be given in groups or in a specific order depending on the type of cancer being treated. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as radiation or surgery.

While chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating certain cancers, chemotherapy drugs reach all parts of the body, not just the cancer cells. Because of this, there may be side effects during treatment. Being able to anticipate these side effects can help you and your child prepare and, in some cases, prevent these symptoms from occurring.

How is chemotherapy administered?

Chemotherapy can be given:

  • As a pill to swallow
  • As an injection into the muscle or fat tissue
  • Intravenously (directly to the bloodstream through a vein; also called IV)
  • Topically (applied to the skin)
  • Directly into a body cavity

What are some of the potential side effects of chemotherapy drugs?

Your doctor will talk to you about the side effects of each drug or other therapy your child receives. Some side effects may occur early on (days or weeks) and some side effects may occur later (months or years) after the chemotherapy has been given. Every child reacts a little bit differently, so always consult your child's doctor if your child is feeling anything unusual.

Related information

Preparing for your infusion visit at Texas Children's Hospital