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Medical Oncology

hospital building Medical oncology refers to the use of medicines to treat cancer. Medical oncologists are the physicians that practice medical oncology. Chemotherapy involves a chemical that may be a hormone, chemical, or biological agent like an antibody, with the goal of traveling in the bloodstream to kill cancer cells. Unlike radiation and surgery, which target specific parts to destroy cancer cells that may be trying to spread away from where the cancer began.

For more than a half a century, chemotherapy has been successfully used to treat cancer. Many drugs have been studied in clinical trials and it is on the basis of these studies – and the physician’s experience – that recommendations are made. Your medical oncologist will meet with you, review your medical history and determine your overall health status prior to making any recommendations for your treatment. He or she will discuss with you your specific wishes, needs, and special circumstances. Together you will develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

Most chemotherapeutic agents work by killing rapidly dividing cells like cancer cells. The drugs interfere with cell growth so that cells cannot divide or are damaged and cannot repair themselves and then eventually die. Agents work by turning off the growth to the cell (hormonal agents). By destroying cancer cells, the chemotherapeutic agents can be used to cure cancer, shrink tumors for surgery, keep the cancer from spreading, relieve symptoms, and prolong survival.

There are several ways in which the chemotherapy can be given:

  • Intravenous (IV): injected into a vein, allowing rapid distribution through your entire body
  • Oral: taken as a pill
  • Topical: applied on the skin to treat localized skin cancers

Many cancers are better treated by delivering different chemotherapeutic agents together and sometimes even with radiation. Because chemotherapy and radiation target and kill cells differently using them together often results in better cure rates. Chemotherapy is administered in cycles, including taking the drugs daily, weekly, or monthly, either for a few months or several months. After each treatment there is a recovery period to allow your body to rest and produce new healthy cells.

Though chemotherapy has its side effects, there have been many advances in preventing them. Hair loss can occur with many but not with all agents. Likewise nausea and vomiting are common with some agents. However, today there are very effective medications that can be used to prevent nausea. You can be certain that your doctor and nurse will have a plan to prevent and manage the side effects before you receive any chemotherapy.

Oral and topical agents are usually taken or administered at home. Intravenous treatments may be given in your physician’s office or in a hospital setting. Safety will always be the first priority and being admitted to the hospital for a short stay may be appropriate.

Your team of doctors, nurses, and specialists will guide you through your treatment and help address all of your needs.


HealthAlliance Hospital
105 Mary's Avenue
Kingston, NY 12401
Phone: 845.338.2500

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Thomas A. Dee Cancer Center
111 Mary's Avenue
Kingston, NY 12401
Phone: 845.334.3015

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