- How are basal and squamous skin cancers treated?
- Surgery for basal and squamous cell skin cancers
- Other forms of local treatment for basal and squamous cell skin cancers
- Radiation therapy for basal and squamous cell skin cancers
- Systemic chemotherapy for basal and squamous cell skin cancers
- Targeted therapy for basal and squamous cell skin cancers
- Clinical trials for basal and squamous skin cell cancers
- Complementary and alternative therapies for basal and squamous cell skin cancers
Systemic chemotherapy for basal and squamous cell skin cancers
Systemic chemotherapy (chemo) uses drugs that are injected into a vein or given by mouth. These drugs travel through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. Unlike chemo that is put on the skin, systemic chemo can attack cancer cells that have spread to lymph nodes and other organs.
Chemo drugs attack cells that divide fast. This is why they work against cancer cells. But other cells in the body divide fast, too. These cells are also likely to be affected by chemo, which can lead to side effects.
The side effects of chemo depend on the type and dose of drugs given and the length of time they are taken. These side effects may include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Higher chance of infection (from too few white blood cells)
- Easy bruising or bleeding (from too few blood platelets)
- Feeling very tired all the time, called fatigue (from too few red blood cells)
These side effects are usually short-term and go away once treatment is finished.
Be sure to talk with your doctor or nurse about any side effects you have because there are often ways to help. For instance, there are drugs to help prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting. To learn more about chemo, please see our document called Understanding Chemotherapy: A Guide for Patients and Families.
Last Medical Review: 09/18/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013