Childhood Cancer

Childhood Leukemia

Chapter 13: Chemotherapy and Other Medications

“The first wealth is health.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

THE WORD CHEMOTHERAPY IS DERIVED from a combination of the words “chemical” and “therapy.” Chemotherapy drugs are used individually or in combination to destroy or disrupt the growth of cancer cells without permanently damaging normal cells.

This chapter explains how chemotherapy drugs work, how they are given, and how dosages for children and teens are determined. It then describes the most common drugs used to destroy leukemia cells, as well as medications used to prevent infections, treat nausea, and decrease pain. Numerous stories are included to show the range of responses to different chemotherapy drugs. This chapter ends with a brief discussion of complementary and alternative treatments.

Reading about chemotherapy’s potential side effects can be disturbing. However, by learning what to expect from the various drugs, you may be able to recognize symptoms early and report them to the doctor so swift action can be taken to make your child more comfortable. On rare occasions, side effects may be life threatening and some can persist throughout life. However, most side effects are unpleasant and subside soon after treatment ends.