Chemotherapy is the use of powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be used as the primary therapy for cancer patients or may be used in combination with other therapies such as surgery and radiation. Anti-cancer drugs are given to patients either intravenously (injected into a vein), by mouth, or by injection. The drugs kill or cause damage to cancer cells, but may also damage normal cells. Hospitalization may be needed to monitor treatment and to control chemotherapy's side effects. Common side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of drug used, the dosage, and the length of treatment, and may include: nausea and vomiting, hair loss, anemia, reduced ability of blood to clot, mouth sores, increased likelihood of developing infections, and fatigue. Most side effects disappear once treatment is stopped. Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells by keeping them from growing and multiplying. Nearby healthy cells can be harmed by anti-cancer drugs – that is what causes side effects. Chemotherapy treatments are often given in cycles: a treatment period, followed by a recovery period, followed by another treatment period. Depending on the drug, chemotherapy may be given at home, a hospital outpatient facility, a physician's office/clinic, or in a hospital. 


Chemotherapy at UAB Medicine is delivered through the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, which enjoys an international reputation for leading-edge discoveries, expert treatment, and compassionate care. It is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center within a six-state area that includes Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Georgia and one of just 40 nationwide. The center boasts an outstanding faculty of more than 330 physicians and researchers, many of whom are nationally and internationally recognized for their oncology expertise. The center treats an estimated 5,000 new patients each year, and each receives the same level of compassionate, leading-edge care that sets us apart from other health care organizations.

The center emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, which helps eliminate the stress from numerous visits to multiple specialists by organizing clinicians from several fields into one team, including a radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, pathologist, and other therapists. This allows patients to see each specialist in a single day, greatly reducing the time needed to formulate a customized, comprehensive treatment plan.

The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of the nation's leading facilities that defines and sets standards for cancer care. Only 21 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are members of the NCCN, whose member institutions lead the fight against cancer while advancing patient care, research, and education.

The O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center is an international leader in developing monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that bind to specific molecules on cancer cells to interfere with cell function. The center holds two prestigious SPORE grants (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) from the NCI in breast and pancreas cancers. The center also is part of a collaborative partnership with Johns Hopkins University and the University of Colorado-Boulder on a third SPORE in cervical cancer. As a leader in cancer research, UAB offers some of the most promising and advanced treatments, including some that are unavailable elsewhere.






UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

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