ZocdocAnswersIs chemotherapy only used to treat cancer?

Question

Is chemotherapy only used to treat cancer?

I am a 33 year old woman with cancer. I would like to know what else chemotherapy treats or was it designed just for cancer.

Answer

Chemotherapy, in its common usage, refers to the use of a variety of drug treatments designed to kill cancerous cells. There is a wide range of chemotherapeutic agents, some of which work broadly by killing cells that rapidly grow and divide. These agents will affect cancerous cells, but also have adverse side effects because they are not completely specific for cancerous cells and also damage normal healthy cells. Other chemotherapy drugs have been designed specifically for class of diseases. This is often the case when there is thought or known to be one key genetic mutation that gives cancerous cells the ability to grow at an unregulated rate. One such drug is Imatinib, used to treat certain types of leukemia. While most chemotherapy agents are used to treat a variety of cancers, some of the drugs are used in the treatment of autoimmune disorders. In this case, the ability of some of the drugs to suppress the body's immune system can be beneficial. One example is the use of cyclophosphamide in the treatment of severe lupus or other autoimmune kidney diseases.

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