When mutations occur in the DNA within cells in our bodies and these cells survive to divide and replicate, this can cause cancer. This can happen in cells located almost anywhere in the body—in the blood, bones, bladder, skin, lymph nodes, breasts, ovaries, and prostate, as well as vital organs such as the brain, liver, lungs, and kidneys. What is so problematic about cancer cells is that they multiply quickly and uncontrollably, creating copies of themselves and passing along their defective DNA. To stop their rapid, erratic division, doctors often turn to chemotherapy—drugs designed to destroy cancer cells.
Chemotherapy or “chemo” can be used to cure cancer, shrink cancerous tumors, prevent cancer from spreading (metastasizing) elsewhere in the body or to relieve discomfort from a growing tumor.
“Cancer chemotherapy has evolved from a last resort 60 years ago to treatment that now can cure patients or markedly prolong their lives, often with far fewer side effects than with the original drugs decades ago,” says Joseph Paul Eder, MD, a Yale Medicine medical oncologist. He is the clinical director of Yale Cancer Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Early Drug Development Program.
In addition to chemotherapy, other types of cancer treatment include surgery, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these approaches. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, a Yale Medicine medical oncologist will work with you and a multispecialty team of doctors at Yale Cancer Center at Smilow to determine the best way to treat your cancer, based on the latest research and using the most advanced technology available.