These drugs enter the bloodstream and spread through the body, which makes the treatment effective for fighting cancers that have spread to distant organs. The specific chemotherapy drug that is used is determined by the specific cancer being treated, and each drug has unique doses and schedules for administration.
Chemotherapy is sometimes used before surgery in order to shrink the tumor so that the surgeon can completely remove it with fewer complications. It may also be given after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may be remaining, such as cells that may have metastasized or spread to the liver. In cases of advanced colorectal cancer, chemotherapy may also be used to alleviate symptoms and prolong life.
5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) has been the standard chemotherapy drug for many years. It is usually administered intravenously and is used in combination with leucovorin, a vitamin which makes the treatment more effective. 5-FU may also be given in the form of a pill, called Xeloda, for colorectal cancers that have spread to other organs.