Chemotherapy, the use of drugs to stop cancer cells from multiplying in the body, has been a standard treatment for many types of cancer for the past 70 years. Chemotherapy has the ability to cure many cancers, and has proven effective at preventing the recurrence of others. Most pediatric cancer patients receive chemotherapy, which is a significant part of a larger treatment plan that may also include surgery and/or radiation therapy.
Patients typically receive chemotherapy one of three ways:
- Infusion—intravenously into a blood vessel
- Oral—drugs taken by mouth, either in pill or liquid form
- Injection—into muscle or under the skin, depending on the type and location of cancer
Most chemotherapy is administered to pediatric cancer patients intravenously. Infusion sessions typically last between one and several hours and are generally scheduled at one- to three-week intervals, depending on the chemotherapy drugs used. To flush the system of drugs left during treatment, hydration is critical. Hydration occurs during and after treatment, typically through an IV pump. Because hydration can last up to 24 hours, prolonged stays at the hospital are common. To reduce hospital stays, Dana-Farber/Boston Children's established a program that enables patients to hydrate at home following their regimen.