Chemotherapy Essay

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The word chemotherapy means the use of any drug (such as aspirin or penicillin) to treat any disease, but to most people chemotherapy refers to drugs used for cancer treatment. It’s often shortened to “chemo.” Two other medical terms used to describe cancer chemotherapy are antineoplastic (meaning anti-cancer) therapy and cytotoxic (cell-killing) therapy. The first drug used for cancer chemotherapy did not start out as a medicine. Mustard gas was used as a chemical warfare agent during World War I and was studied further during World War II. During a military operation in World War II, a group of people were accidentally exposed to mustard gas and were later found to have very low white blood cell counts. Doctors reasoned that something that damages the rapidly growing white blood cells might have a similar effect on cancer. So, in the 1940s, several patients with advanced lymphomas (cancers of certain white blood cells) were given the drug by vein, rather than by breathing the irritating gas. Their improvement, although temporary, was remarkable. This experience led researchers to l...

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