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Chemotherapy - Who can use chemotherapy

As chemotherapy is a potentially life-saving treatment, it's usually recommended for most people with cancer, even if they are in poor health and the treatment is likely to make them feel worse.

Delaying treatment or, in some cases, not having chemotherapy may be recommended if you:

  • are in the first three months of pregnancy – using chemotherapy during this time has a very high risk of causing birth defects
  • have low levels of blood cells – chemotherapy can lower your blood cell count more, so it could make you feel very ill and, in some cases, vulnerable to infection (medication and sometimes a blood transfusion may be required to raise your blood cell count)
  • have severe kidney or liver disease – most chemotherapy medications are processed by your liver and kidneys, so this could have a very harmful effect if your liver and kidneys are already damaged
  • have had recent surgery or a wound – chemotherapy can disrupt the body’s ability to heal wounds, so it's usually recommended that the wound heals before treatment begins
  • have an ongoing infection – chemotherapy can make you more vulnerable to the effects of infection, increasing your risks of developing serious complications


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