Childhood Cancer

Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors

How chemotherapy drugs are given

The five most common ways to give chemotherapy drugs during treatment for childhood cancer are:

  • Intravenous (IV). Medicine is delivered directly into the bloodstream through a venous catheter in the chest or an IV in the arm or hand. IV medicines can be administered in a few minutes (through IV injection or push) or as an infusion over a number of hours.
  • Oral (PO). Drugs, taken by mouth in liquid, capsule, or tablet form, are absorbed into the blood through the lining of the stomach and intestines.
  • Intracavitary/Interstitial/Implanted. Drugs are delivered directly into a body cavity through a catheter, or they are placed in a tumor bed in a form that will slowly dissolve (e.g., wafers).
  • Intramuscular (IM). Drugs that need to seep slowly into the bloodstream are injected into a large muscle such as the thigh or buttocks.
  • Intrathecal (IT). Doctors perform a spinal tap and inject the drug directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord).
  • Subcutaneous (Sub-Q). Drugs that need to enter the bloodstream at a moderately rapid rate are injected into the soft tissues under the skin of the upper arm, thigh, or abdomen.
  • Sublingual (SL). Several drugs are now available as lozenges that dissolve quickly when placed under the tongue.