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Other ways of having chemotherapy

There are other methods of having chemotherapy but your options will depend on the type of cancer you have and what your doctor recommends.

Many people need to take tablets or capsules at home. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will tell you how and when to take them, and how to handle the medication safely.

Some skin cancers are treated using a chemotherapy cream applied directly to the skin.

Less commonly, chemotherapy can be injected using a needle into different parts of the body:

  • intramuscular—into a muscle, usually in your buttock or thigh
  • subcutaneous—just under the skin
  • intrathecal—into the fluid around the spine (also known as a lumbar puncture)
  • intra-arterial—into an artery, for example, the hepatic artery in the liver
  • intraperitoneal—into your abdominal area (peritoneum)
  • intrapleural—into the outer lining of the lungs
  • intravesical—into the bladder
  • intralesional—into the tumour; this treatment is rare.

Some people who have surgery for a brain tumour (craniotomy) will have small, dissolvable gel wafers of chemotherapy placed directly into the tumour site during the operation.

This is a treatment given as part of a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant for conditions such as leukaemia or lymphoma. The high-dose chemotherapy kills off all the cancer cells in the blood before the new, healthy cells are transplanted a day or two later.

Used for liver cancer—or some types of cancer that have spread to the liver—chemoembolisation is a procedure of injecting chemotherapy directly into the blood vessels supplying a tumour. The chemotherapy is mixed with tiny spheres that block the vessels and stop the tumour getting nutrients and oxygen.

Tell your doctor if you plan to take over-the-counter medications, home remedies or complementary therapies such as herbal or nutritional supplements. Some remedies worsen side effects or affect how chemotherapy works in your body. For example, the herb St John’s Wort can reduce the effectiveness of some drugs.