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Is the treatment working?

Your doctor will use several methods to measure how well the chemotherapy is working. You will probably have physical examinations, blood tests and scans. These tests can show if the cancer has shrunk or disappeared. If the cancer has shrunk or hasn’t grown, the chemotherapy may continue.

You may wonder whether getting side effects is a sign that the chemotherapy is working. Side effects vary from person to person and from drug to drug and they do not show whether the treatment is effective or not.

If tests show that the cancer has disappeared it will be a great relief. The doctors may refer to this as remission, which means there is no evidence of active cancer. Although the cancer is gone, your doctor will monitor you for several months or years before you are considered cured. This is because cancer can sometimes come back in the same place or grow in another part of the body.

Adjuvant chemotherapy is often used to prevent cancer coming back, so it may not be possible to tell if this treatment has been effective for some years. If chemotherapy is being given as palliative treatment, the relief of your symptoms will tell you if the treatment is working.