Understand Chemotherapy Terms

Chemotherapy encompasses a wide variety of therapy treatments. The terms can be hard to understand for non medical practitioners.  This page explains the various chemotherapy protocols currently in use.

Adjuvant chemotherapy

Chemotherapy given to destroy left-over (microscopic) cells that may be present after the known tumor is removed by surgery.  Adjuvant chemotherapy is given to prevent a possible cancer reccurrence.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy

Chemotherapy given prior to the surgical procedure.  Neoadjuvant chemotherapy may be given to attempt to shrink the cancer so that the surgical procedure may not need to be as extensive.

Induction chemotherapy

Chemotherapy given to induce a remission.  This term is commonly used in the treatment of acute leukemias.

Consolidation chemotherapy

Chemotherapy given once a remission is achieved.  The goal of this therapy is to sustain a remission.  Consolidation chemotherapy may also be called intensification therapy.  This term is commonly used in the treatment of acute leukemias.

Maintenance chemotherapy

Chemotherapy given in lower doses to assist in prolonging a remission.  Maintenance chemotherapy is used only for certain types of cancer, most commonly acute lymphocytic leukemias and acute promyelocytic leukemias.

First line chemotherapy

Chemotherapy that has, through research studies and clinical trials, been determined to have the best probability of treating a given cancer.  This may also be called standard therapy.

Second line chemotherapy

Chemotherapy that is given if a disease has not responded or reoccurred after first line chemotherapy.  Second line chemotherapy has, through research studies and clinical trials, been determined to be effective in treating a given cancer that has not responded or reoccurred after standard chemotherapy.  In some cases, this may also be referred to as salvage therapy.

Palliative chemotherapy

Palliative is a type of chemotherapy that is given specifically to address symptom management without expecting to significantly reduce the cancer.

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