Advantages & Disadvantages of Chemotherapy


Many who have been diagnosed with some kind of cancer know that recovery is a long and sometimes painful process. Chemotherapy is a source of both healing and discomfort, but is it really worth the trouble?


Cancer occurs when a group of cells has lost the ability to control growth through mutations. These cells divide rapidly to form tumors, and sometimes cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body.

Chemicals Used lists the different types of chemicals used during cancer treatment. These drugs specifically target rapidly-growing cells (for instance, by blocking microtubule formation). They do not distinguish between healthy cells and cancer cells.


The greatest advantage to chemotherapy is its control over the spread of cancer since it is delivered throughout the body in the bloodstream. It is even more effective when combined with surgery or radiation therapy.


The worst disadvantage of chemotherapy is the unpleasant side effects such as nausea, hair loss and extreme discomfort. A second disadvantage is that chemicals must be carefully selected depending on the type and stage of the cancer.

Current Research

The development of drugs that can be specifically targeted to a cancerous growth is a promising area of current research. If the technology can be perfected, the side effects common to most types of chemotherapy may be avoided.

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  • Human Anatomy and Physiology, Sixth Edition; Elaine N. Marieb; 2004
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